28 Jul 2016

LIVING2016: A Moment of Opportunity

“LIVING2016 was the greatest experience for me. I met amazing people from different countries and backgrounds who are living positively with HIV. It truly touched me to be in a room full of people, feeling safe and supported to talk about my life with HIV.” It is just one of the many reactions we received from grateful participants of LIVING 2016, the Positive Leadership Summit which took place on 16 and 17 July in Durban, South Africa.

270 people living with HIV from 78 countries contributed to the success of LIVING 2016. The Summit amplified many of the hopes and concerns discussed during AIDS2016, the 21st International AIDS Conference held in Durban, South Africa. Treatment, Rights and Resources were the three main themes of the Summit.

“Discussions and exchanges during the Summit were of the highest quality. I recall thinking that with our combined experiences we can really end the epidemic, “ says Prudence Mabele, National co-chair of the LIVING Summit.

At the Positive Leadership Summit important discussions were held around criminalisation, self-stigma, research tools driven by people living with HIV and the linkages between HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights services. Perhaps the most burning questions were around how to approach universal treatment in a time of reduced funding and how can networks of people living with HIV can contribute the most.

Crisis or Opportunity
Globally, we are targeting the end of the epidemic, but we do so in a setting of scarce resources. Networks of people living with HIV are struggling to be funded and our programming is suffering.

The movement of people living with HIV needs to join forces along a common and ambitious vision and purpose. We need solidarity amongst ourselves, and we need to be inclusive of all key populations. We can turn crisis into opportunity by defining and reiterating a collective strategy that clearly articulates what people living with HIV can do. We have to claim our role in supporting treatment literacy, access, and adherence.

Sustainable Financing
Ending AIDS by 2030 costs money. With international funding agencies focusing on the poorest countries, more and more countries will need to finance the treatment of their own citizens. While the prices of first line treatment have gone down significantly, second and third line treatment are often still high.

The changing funding streams also means we need to refocus our advocacy efforts. Networks of people with HIV are well positioned to monitor domestic HIV investments, including signaling where it goes well and where it does not. For example for sustainable domestic financing to work, legal environments must be conducive especially in countries where key populations are criminalised and governments do not provide quality services for key populations.

HIV treatment literacy
With the increased focus on treatment, challenges regarding treatment access and literacy are coming to the forefront. Aiming for HIV testing and treatment for all carries a risk of rights violations when it becomes obligatory. It also means safe and cheap ways of checking for viral load, CD4 count, resistance and side effects have to become universally available so treatment can be tailored to the person.

These challenges are some of the central issues of LIVING 2016. There is no place for complacency and failing to end AIDS is not acceptable. People with HIV need to claim this target and their central role in making the HIV response successful. The visions and experiences of the leaders who joined the Summit will form the basis for a global strategy to make that happen. Please stay tuned for the LIVING 2016 report and the next steps!

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