The theme for AIDS 2012 is ‘turning the tide together’. We know that communities are not just at the frontline of the response, they are the frontline – and the tide of the HIV epidemic cannot be turned without them.
Specifically we must ensure that human rights are central to the response. ‘Unless marginalised communities who are most vulnerable to HIV are engaged and involved, then those same people will not be able to access essential treatment and prevention services,’ says Alvaro Bermejo, Executive Director of the Alliance.
This includes men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, transgender people, sex workers and people living with HIV. ‘Without communities and human rights there is no such thing as an effective response. To attain universal access their frontline position must universally be acknowledged.’
It is the first time in over 20 years that it has been possible to hold the conference in the US, after the restriction on people living with HIV traveling to the country was lifted in 2010.
However we are concerned by reports that some key community actors in the HIV response are still being deterred by current US visa restrictions, particularly sex workers and people who use drugs. This is because drug use or sex work is deemed as ‘moral turpitude’ – grounds for refusing visa applications. We are monitoring this and supporting Alliance partners with their applications.
With over 80 Alliance representatives attending we will have a significant presence at the conference. The event is timely. Our ‘Don’t stop now!’ message stems from global austerity measures leading to unfulfilled commitments, right at a time when developments and scientific breakthrough signaled that the end of AIDS is possible.
We believe there is still reason for optimism. Here are the key messages we are taking to Washington in pictures.