Why an International AIDS Conference is welcome

CREATED ON // Monday, 21 July 2014 Written by // Robert Mitchell

As the 20th International AIDS conference opens in Melbourne Australia, the world is focused on defining a new global agenda that will see the end of the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Earlier this month the executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, described this as “ending AIDS as an outcome of the post 2015 era.”

Examples of countries around the world expressing support for ending AIDS and developing their own road maps for national responses to HIV will be presented through this coming week’s proceedings, along with the latest news on developments in science, community and clinical programs and projects.

In Australia last week, the 7th National HIV strategy was launched by the Commonwealth Minister for Health Peter Dutton. This is a document which has been endorsed by all Australian Health Ministers, and for the first time contain targets that set the direction for Australia to reverse the trend of new HIV diagnoses, and works towards the virtual elimination of HIV transmission by 2020.

In our country, to achieve this overarching goal we will need to see increases in HIV testing by more than 30 per cent, and an increase of treatment coverage to 90 per cent of the HIV-positive population. An important milestone to measure our progress will be seeing a decrease in HIV transmission by 50 per cent by the end of 2015.

Addressing these targets means also implicitly dealing with the range of social, structural and legal barriers that act as impediments to an optimal engagement of individuals and their broader communities with health promotion, services and programs.

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[Image] AIDS 2014. Photo: Dean Beck

All of this speaks to why an international meeting such as AIDS 2014 is important to Australia, as the host country, as well as important to the global response collectively.

This conference brings together the world. Stories are shared, lessons are learned, and the promises of the next steps towards ending this epidemic are made visible for all to unite with purpose.

In Australia we have built our public health response to HIV on the foundation of partnership and community mobilisation. We are part of a global commitment to end HIV/AIDS and be part of the leadership that offers models for sustainable success.

Success will be determined by an evidence build, a development of the knowledge we need of our own epidemic and which informs the activities and programs that we prioritise for our most vulnerable populations, and for those communities which bear the greatest impacts of disease, stigma, inequality and social barriers.

The 20th International AIDS conference is focused on all of these aspects, as well as the convergence of the world to draw strategic collaborations together to leverage all contributions and energies.

We need this conference to remind us all of the power of shared responsibilities and global solidarity. It sets a focus and drive for the next period, as well as setting a new momentum to deliver the achievements we have all committed, along with a promise that no one can be left behind.


Robert Mitchell

Robert Mitchell

Robert Mitchell is Robert Mitchell is president of the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA). NAPWHA is the Australian Community partner for the 20th International AIDS Conference.

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