Gabriel Adeyemo, west Africa Regional focal Point for the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS took time off his busy schedule to pen down his experience at the recently concluded International AIDS conference which held in Washington DC, United States.
International AIDS Conference took completely another dimension for me this time in 2012. My simple definition was to attend, make new partnership, form alliances with international recognized organization, advocates for my interest in the field, and make scheduled formal presentations
The tussle began when I was refused scholarship to attend and I needed to pay a sum of $690 for my conference registration if I must attend AIDS 2012. I paid this sum and secured my attendance.
Youth Pre-conference was where the drama began. It often prelude all/most International AIDS Conferences and I had the privilege of meeting all my long-lost friends that we had met since Vienna @ the AIDS 2010. I attended all HIV/AIDS prevention sessions and upcoming PrEP/prevention technologies at the youth pre-conference. No sooner did I realize that, young people are not on same page towards advocating for New Biomedical Prevention Technologies (NPT) in HIV/AIDS, simply because whilst others believed in it potency to save more lives in the future, another thought PrEP/Microbicide will increase promiscuity/more risky sexual behaviors among young populations including MSMs and Sex Workers.
There are just so many divergent views of young scientist towards prevention technologies which I stand for and advocate. It got interesting when arguing scientifically with your fellow peers for New Biomedical Prevention Technologies and not relenting on your points.
At the main conference, some GYCA focal persons were able to present at various sessions as panelist and I wasn’t left out of the team. I believed this is also found in our core objectives as “GYCA; securing prominent advocacy opportunities for powerful and vocal young leaders affected and infected with HIV, such as the opening ceremony and plenary sessions at International AIDS Conferences.”
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) organized my first panel presentation and also supported me to attend the AIDS 2012 conference. It was titled: Research for New HIV/AIDS Prevention Technologies – Community Perspective. I spoke alongside great panelists and from a position of an African Youth, & specifically one from a country with a heavy HIV burden but no NPT clinical trials currently.
My considerations were based on;
– Youths are vulnerable to HIV, but for many reasons related to this vulnerability, we often cannot take advantage of existing prevention methods.
– The at-risk populations needs NPT that are easy to use, easily controlled, and that don’t inhibit pleasure, while focusing young girls, very poor young people, young MSMs and sex workers.
– Concerns about protecting youth from exploitation by medical researchers are real, but there must be ethical trials for youths so that we have access to the NPTs as soon as they are developed.
The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and other prevention partners organized my second speaking session titled: Is the Scientific and Programming Community Ignoring Condoms? The Visible Yet Invisible Method that is proven to prevent the transmission of HIV. I shared my involvement on Condom Programming projects here in Nigeria with UNFPA supports, the barriers I see in the field as regards male and female condoms.
– Why we need to rethink our advocacy strategies to suit all populations of young people involved, the key policy and financial barriers facing female and male condoms and the tactics/evidence needed to overcome them.
I also gave some recommendation to making promotion and use of both condoms more effective, particularly within the context of emerging prevention and treatment strategies.
My whole perception towards IAC changed this time, as it was not all about attending many/irrelevant session to my field, but to being more effective in the little I could do.
Aside basic meetings and speaking role I was engaged with at the conference, some other plenary speakers blew my mind with positive thoughts and willingness to continue the HIV/AIDS advocacy.
– Annah Sango from Zimbabwe spoke with much energy and strength at the opening ceremony of the conference as a young & positive lady/advocate. She restored courage and hope in most young people that our advocacy should continue.
– Prof. Anthony S. Fauci – Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) spoke with much enthusiasm and restoration of hope towards the search for a cure, which is also one of the major themes of the AIDS 2012. Delegates heard about what scientists meant by a cure; how a cure can be achieved and about the difficulties and challenges that lies ahead.
– Hilary Clinton – US Secretary of State also inspired delegates with different funding mechanisms that the US government has set in place to help resource constraints nations to fight HIV/AIDS and develop prevention programs with key HIV Projects.
– Phill Wilson – The President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute was also not left out. He spoke with so much inspiration and affections about the love he had enjoyed as a black gay man living with HIV. Mentioning issues of stigma and discrimination as related to HIV with examples makes his presentation more captivating.
The International AIDS Conference also offered opportunity for me to network with diverse groups and many other young people from all over the world. I left with more knowledge, more inspiration and a stronger commitment to do more within my immediate community and constituency.
I couldnt have been more grateful to the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS and the IAVI for making it possible for me to attend the IAC2012
Gabriel Adeyemo, 27 years old, is the Regional Focal Point for West Africa for the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS. He is a dynamic advocate on HIV prevention sciences, focusing on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), treatment as prevention (TasP), condom programming, medical male circumcision, HIV vaccine and microbicide development.
He is the moderator for the group Students for Microbicides (S4M), geared toward engaging young people in advocacy around new biomedical prevention technologies on HIV/AIDS/STIs.
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