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Sharon Lewis

Image: Dr Sharon Lewis of Australia, incoming IAS President, at the closing ceremony Photo©Steve Forrest/Workers’ Photos/IAS

In late July The Positive Women Inc. National Coordinator, Jane Bruning attended the International AIDS Conference 2022 in Montreal, Canada. Held every two years, this event is the world's largest gathering on HIV and AIDS. Scientists, policymakers, advocates, and activists from around the globe unite to share research and collaborate on future public health measures.

The conference was attended by around 12.000 people from around the world. "There is something quite compelling and even a little humbling about so many people all gathered in one room for the same cause" says Jane. The conference programme is also daunting, with 150 sessions over 5 days. From groundbreaking presentations and expert panel debates to networking sessions, and educational workshops. So many wonderful people to learn from and so much important information to process.

Jane summarises the highlights and key takeaways of the Conference, from her perspective, in no particular order:

  1. The Dual Prevention Pill (DPP) is a female contraception pill that includes PREP). While still in the testing (bioequivalence) phase, this will be a game changer for women.  It is expected to reach the next phase in around 18 months, and Jane shall be using that time to advocate for this in Aotearoa New Zealand. Click here for more information and to listen to the session.
  2. The U=U Summit.
    A full day of talking, listening and learning about what is happening around the world to ensure the U=U message continues to thrive.  As part of this session Jane presented on a New Zealand project called “Sperm Positive”. Click here for more information and to listen to the session.
  3. Communities of people living with HIV continue to lead the way. 
    This was evident throughout the Global Village. The U=U Summit and many of the presentations at the conference. A lot more people openly living with HIV were speaking out, especially from some of the less developed countries who in the past have been shy and fearful of speaking out. 
  4. HIV (combination) Self-testing. 
    The use of self-testing Kits for HIV and other STI’s is showing significant rates of uptake and also is capturing HIV diagnoses without too much serious psychological harm to the person doing the test. Positive Women Inc. NZ will be increasing awareness about and looking to partner with a supply chain to promote self-testing. Click here for more information and to listen to the session.
  5. The Decimalisation of Drug use. 
    Drug addiction is a medical condition which is not helped by criminalisation, also relevant for people living with HIV.  Positive Women Inc. NZ will look to make partnerships with the NZ needle exchange and other drug prevention organisations to collectively advocate for the decimalisation of drug use to add to the tool kit of HIV prevention and care. Click here for more information and to listen to the session.

Overall, the conference was hectic and tiring but informative and inspiring. Jane said "What I enjoyed most of the conference was staying at the B&B where quite a few people from the Australian team stayed. There was comradery, chat, support, and fun. My favourite times were sitting on the balcony in the evening having a debrief of the day with whomever was in the house."

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