CAB Members Report from AIDS 2012

The ACTG supported four community members to attend the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC this July. They were selected by lottery from the many community members who applied. Timothy Argro from CRS 31475 in Richmond, Virginia; Paul Klees from CRS 801 in San Francisco, California; Harry Tembo from CRS 12801 in Lusaka, Zambia; and Pamela Tshandu from CRS 11101 in Johannesburg, South Africa, represented the ACTG community. They distributed materials discussing the history of community participation in the ACTG research development process and encouraging others to consider participating.

Flash drives with ACTG and community information, QR postcards and ACTG community buttons were distributed, giving our representatives tools and an opportunity to be roaming ambassadors.

Asked to share their experiences, Pamela reported “the highlight for me was the opening of the conference on July 22, where different leaders from across the globe spoke highlighting the challenges at hand and urging collective action towards a lasting solution towards HIV eradication.

“Our own deputy president from South Africa Kgalema Monthlanthe urged all
countries to forge partnerships in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Local and national leaders included U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebellius,
who recommitted herself in helping local organisations in the fight. Michel Sidibe Executive Director of UNAIDS and UN Secretary Ban Kin Moon were among the speakers.

“Handing flashdiscs and informing delegates about ACTG became a very engaging task; people were very interested to know about different studies and the network itself. What an awesome experience; looking forward to Melbourne Australia 2014.”
Pamela mentioned some specific sessions she attended: TB and HIV, Ageing with HIV, Getting to zero excuses, Looking into the future in HIV and TB, Girls and adolescence growing up with HIV challenges.

Paul Klees reported, “Attending IAS 2012 thrust me into a larger perspective regarding HIV/AIDS. Interacting with activists, scientists, religious leaders and civil rights leaders from across the globe underscored my deeply held belief in the concept of human interconnectivity. To see the United States through the lens of other cultures has affected and re-framed my priorities, my perspective and my politics. Seeing people from all over the world working together to solve the problems of this epidemic is inspiring and has recharged my own activism.”

Harry Tembo had this concise message – “Community involvement and participation in HIV research – a must.”

Timothy Argro summed the experience up this way, “The theme of IAS 2012, Turning the Tide Together, embraced the notion that everyone must have a place at the table. Efforts were made to learn from missed opportunities of the past to foster collaborations and to work in partnership. All stakeholders, large and small, were given a platform and groups who historically have been at odds were able to find common ground. These coalitions will be instrumental in turning the tide. At the end of the conference, I (like Paul) also walked away with recharged activism and a renewed sense of optimism about this pivotal moment in our history. I believe through many of the partnerships exemplified at IAS 2012, we are approaching the day that those affected by HIV/AIDS (all of us) will live in a world with less stigma relating to one's sero-status, better access to effective treatment options and with the ultimate reality of the day where a new HIV diagnosis is a thing of the past and real cure is achieved; I am eager to see that day.”