MSMGF: 'We still face prejudice, discrimination and exclusion'
“I am a man who has sex with other men, I’m proud of it and I love I,” said Victorian AIDS Council President Greg Carter and with that statement the Men who have Sex with Men Global Forum (MSMGF) kicked off with a bang.
Carter was present to deliver the opening remarks at the forum which is a preconference to the AIDS 2014 event which kicks off this afternoon at Melbourne Convention Centre.
Carter outlined the tireless work of his staff who have been assisting the MSMGF with the forum and hailed the VAC as Australia’s oldest HIV organisation which started in the back rooms of the Laird Hotel in 1983.
Carter highlighted the VAC’s history of working with communities living with HIV and the organisation’s contribution to prevention strategies.
He described the conference as a “valuable opportunity to learn from other organisations from around the world”.
Joining Carter to deliver opening remarks was Brent Allan, Executive Officer of Positive Living Victoria. Allan told the assembled crowd he wanted to honour the contributions of those in the frontline in the early years of the battle against HIV; saying I want to highlight the brave and courageous people who have come before us.
“In particular I want to welcome HIV positive people and renew the commitment of people living with HIV to ensure no one gets left behind,”
He suggested AIDS 2014 as a great opportunity to network and encouraged participants to ”enlist others in shared aspirations and enable others to find their voice and act – to face the week ahead with a commitment to social justice and to celebrate our community”.
Chris Beyrer President-elect of the AIDS Society prefaced his remarks with the announcement that he is the first openly gay President of the IAS, which was met with a round of applause.
Beyrer spoke of the WHO recent recommendations for treatment and prevention plans for LGBTI youth and described them as real advances inhuman rights. He also raised the issue of PrEP as an option of the prevention package and discussed the Partner study, which has delivered the first empirical data on sero-discordant couples. The results have been heartening with no transmissions in the preliminary data.
While he acknowledged there were divided views on PrEP, Beyrer was hopeful of what it meant for the community.
There are very individual views on the use of PrEP and we know that – it is wonderful we know that - but I think we are finally starting to have expanded options for our community”.
Bringing the opening remarks to a conclusion Michel Sidibe Executive Director from UN AIDS spoke passionately about the criminalisation of homosexuality. Reeling off statistics, Sidibe cited 81 countries that still criminalise homosexuality, seven by the death penalty.
He said ending HIV by 2030 will be impossible if we do not put people at the centre of our approach.
“We are in the best of times and the worst of times” he said. “We need to meet our opponents n common grounds without losing sight of our vision… Inspiring new allies with pragmatic messages - change is necessary to end aids by 2030. we will not see an end if we still facing prejudice, criminalisation and exclusion.”