By International HIV/AIDS Alliance Key Correspondent Prakash Tyagi from India
It has been said and proven time and again that HIV and AIDS are not solely medical problems, but have deep social and economic links, consequences and implications. Over the years, the Global Village at the International AIDS Conference has been a platform for communities, activists and practitioners representing diversity and solidarity.
The Global Village at AIDS 2012 opened up on Monday 22 July. At more than 190,000 square feet the Global Village, it is the largest to date. There are 90 countries participating with over 120 booths and a wide range of activities and information.
At the opening, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, described the Global Village as the “real heart” of the conference and the space for the exchange of ideas. “The end of AIDS is not free. It is not too expensive. It is priceless, but to end it people’s connectivity and exchanges are crucial,” he said.
In the Global Village debates of all hues come to the fore and flourish, as was the case when Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray spoke and was greeted by activists urging a local AIDS strategy. Before AIDS 2012 many would have not known the severity of the HIV epidemic in the U.S. capital. Mayor Gray promised a strong commitment on HIV prevention and care and announced the introduction of paid leave for government employees to get educated on HIV and to get tested. He shared the success of previous interventions on mother-to-child transmission, which means no child has been born with HIV in Washington, D.C. since 2009.
The Global Village has some interesting sessions, networking zones and cultural events. The space also hosts networks and organizations whose concerns are often not visible. The Caregivers’ Action Network is one such example. Similarly, the marketplace booths bring community based groups and organizations from around the world. Exchange of thoughts with these groups is truly enriching.
Positive stories of the progress made on reducing the pandemic are all around the conference. Along with the medical and research community, the Global Village and its consortium of action groups deserves equal credit in these accomplishments. These groups’ role in the future of the HIV response will be vital too; the campaign to increase ART coverage to 15 million people from 8.75 by 2015, for example, will not succeed without them.
The AIDS 2012 conference theme of Turning the Tide Togetherrecognizes the importance of collective action to tackle one of the most challenging public health crisis of all time. I expect those in the Global Village will be key players in turning the tide. It has always been thus in the history of AIDS pandemic.
The KC team is a global network of community-based writers from around 50 countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. A large number of KCs are people living with or affected by HIV. All are volunteers and include those working in advocacy, media, health and development.