Mo Barry | Vancouver, Canada | 20th July 2015
With more than 7000 participants including researchers, politicians, the media, civil society, pharmaceutical companies, the UN system, and representatives of key affected populations from across the globe. The 8th International AIDS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Prevention, and Treatment (IAS2015) currently taking in Vancouver, Canada has been heralded as the ‘’new dawn for HIV Prevention and Treatment’’ by the conference co-chairs, Chris Beyer and Julio Montaner.
As the host city of the 1996 International AIDS Conference which was famously known as ‘the dawn of HIV treatment’ almost two decades ago. Vancouver is once again giving the world a renewed sense of hope and optimism in the global AIDS response. And like two decades ago, the IAS2015 conference is facilitating the unveiling and sharing of ground-breaking innovations, tools and technologies for HIV care and prevention, ‘setting the ground for the new UNAIDS ”90.90.90 targets.”’ as noted by Rachel Baggaley from the World Health Organization.
With a primary focus on identifying effective, evidence-based and human rights friendly strategies for HIV Programs and services globally. This conference seeks to set-out a roadmap for scaling-up HIV treatment and prevention for all including key affected populations and children. This quest has been has been clearly outlined and endorsed by people across the globe in the Vancouver Consensus – a resounding global call for action to end AIDS.
In his conference opening address, IAS2015 conference co-chair, Chris Beyer said ‘…let this be the conference where the of when to start treatment stops being a scientific question and starts being a question of finance and political will.’’
This historic conference is also taking place at a time when the UNAIDS just achieved its ’15 by 15’’ treatment targets nine months earlier than expected – a critical milestone in the global AIDS response and human rights.
And if judging from the conference mood, the numerous researching findings to be unveiled this week, conference program, and diversity of participants, this conference could potentially be the dawn of a new era in HIV treatment and prevention globally.
Mo Barry of Museum of AIDS in Africa at IAS in Vancouver with young people and researchers from Nigeria and France
There are moments when all we can do, allow ourselves, is to lightly brush our eyes across a headline or image. And yet, like too much salt in food or the residues of a bad dream on waking we find to our alarm, that the aftertaste overwhelms the tongue left thirsty and the images have in fact burnt themselves onto our inner eye and laid waste our strongest defences.
This was my reaction when I glimpsed a headline screaming about sterilization of HIV positive women as “part of a strategy” in South Africa (africaisacountry.org). The anger which ripped through my being found no solace. I became ill. A friend introduced me to the word, ‘visceral’ as a way of explaining this reaction. Visceral – deep feelings lodged in the body. And I thought about the very many ways in which bodies, particularly women’s bodies become the site for holding grief – whilst concomitantly pursuing life. I recall the story of a Mother holding, almost nonchalantly, an image of her child who had died just weeks before she was told that she was pregnant again. This time, she was forewarned. The news of her latter pregnancy came together with an HIV test which indicated that she was positive.And that all of the years of illness and weakness and eventual death of her much loved toddler was due to the fact that he was positive.
The story of her grief was very finely interwoven with the joy of the new life which waited. And there is something profoundly powerful in the silence with which she adorned the photo frame she made for the last image taken of her son, an image which had been hidden away for a long, long time. Accompanied by the complex weave of storytelling, the object which she chose, this photograph, became laden with words beyond words and with each piece of cloth carefully selected, each bead chosen and meticulously applied – the frame and the photograph became intricately linked with her present1.
I return to this word, ‘visceral’ again and again as I wonder at the releasing of words-beyond-words through simple acts of adornment, caressing an object, bringing something of significance into the light and how the act of creating becomes sometimes a seamless movement of the pain held within the body through hands through object escaping into air.
1 The fabrication housing and adornment of the object is one of the steps of the ‘healing through memory and objects’ process designed by the Museum of AIDS in Africa
In order to protect the identity of the participant, the image is not attached