In July, 12,000 of the world's leading scientists, policymakers, activists, and development professionals converged in Melbourne, Australia, to share cutting-edge research and discuss the future of HIV/AIDS interventions at the 2014 International AIDS Conference.
Among them were several members of Chemonics' Health Practice, who presented a poster on an innovative community mobilization approach Chemonics is implementing to reach key affected populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and represented Chemonics at our booth in the Exhibition Hall.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, AIDS has claimed roughly 36 million lives. Today, an unprecedented number of people — about 13 million — are receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) and globally the number of people dying from AIDS has declined markedly. Yet as the theme of the conference "Stepping Up the Pace" emphasized, this progress has been uneven and now is a crucial time to build on the momentum generated by ART and other advances.
Above all, this means focusing interventions on the key affected populations and vulnerable groups who due to stigma and discrimination continue to bear a disproportionate share of the HIV/AIDS burden across the globe. It also means empowering key affected populations and vulnerable groups to take a more active role in the fight against HIV/AIDS in their communities.
"The conference benefited from the active participation of key affected populations themselves. For me, these speakers were examples of the talent that is inside every key population that has been marginalized and excluded from important decisions towards the end of AIDS and ensuring an HIV free generation," said Dr. Oscar Cordon, a director in the Health Practice who participated in the conference on behalf of Chemonics.
The International AIDS Society, which organizes the conference biennially, accepted a poster presentation by the Integrated HIV/AIDS Program (ProVIC) in the DRC about an innovative, locally led community mobilization approach we are taking to reach key affected populations, including men who have sex with men and commercial sex workers.
By working via local NGOs close to these populations to define communities based on social and economic parameters, rather than traditional geographic parameters, the program has reached thousands of people with HIV/AIDS testing and treatment as well as behavior change messages. Chemonics is a subcontractor to PATH on ProVIC and responsible for community mobilization.
Despite the tragic loss of those aboard the Malaysian Airlines flight that crashed in Ukraine, including several passengers bound for AIDS 2014, the conference went ahead as planned. As many of the presenters noted, their colleagues would have wanted to them to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS to which they devoted their lives.