The recent International AIDS Conference in Melbourne brought together an amazing diversity of scientists, researchers, practitioners, politicians, and people living with HIV from every corner of the globe.
The conference reflected on the phenomenal progress which has been made to date in providing life-saving treatment to 14 million people and dramatically reducing HIV infections in both adults and children.
It was also an opportunity to strategise on how to ensure that the amazing benefits of medicine and science are made available to everyone who needs them.
There’s still a long way to go in bring the AIDS pandemic under control and sadly the statistics we’re seeing point to particular groups that are being left behind. The largest group at risk of HIV world-wide are young women in Sub Saharan Africa who are at least twice as likely to be living with HIV as young men in the same age group. In many places this figure is much higher.
Dr Enida Friel of Oxfam Ireland with Noreen Gumbo and Deirdre Ni Cheallaigh in Melbourne
Other groups being left behind include men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users and prisoners. The message is clear: we have the answer to controlling the epidemic but there are barriers to be overcome to reach these most marginalised groups; barriers of exclusion, discrimination and bad policies.
In an address to conference delegates, Bill Clinton commented that the six delegates killed on their way to the conference on MH17 “gave their entire lives to the proposition that our common humanity matters a hell of a lot more than our differences” and urged participants to use their example to step up the pace.
We are all challenged to do more. We are challenged as a faith agency to ensure we are inclusive and challenged as activists to lobby our political leaders to make the right choices and ensure that this epidemic is brought to an end and no one is left behind.