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Reporting from the conference

Find below short reports per day or have a look at the photo collage.

Friday 8 December

While the ICASA conference was almost coming to an end we organised one last session in the Aidsfonds Community Village booth; the screening of the Y+ Beauty Pageant documentary followed by a Q&A with the founder, current organiser, and first two winners of Ugandan Network of Young People Living With HIV&AIDS’s event. Our booth was bursting out of its seams with almost 30 people attending the screening. Despite of people having to do with subtitles, as our huge flat screen television was unable to drown out all background noise, people where all ears.
By Leon Essink - Aidsfonds

Thursday 7 December

Today a very interesting workshop took place in our Community Village booth: How to support young people living with HIV to adhere to ART. Over 25 young people discussed main issues that causes treatment failure and at the same time looked into solutions. The workshop turned out to be very fruitful as no less than 13 suggestions were proposed to contribute to treatment adherence by young people. Among the solutions were creation of mobile reminders, training teachers on HIV treatment so as to reduce stigma, establishment of a toll-free help line and information provision through social media. I got very much inspired by the drive and energy shown by the group and got even more convinced that ending AIDS starts with involvement of the people concerned. They know best what they need!
By Maureen Sellmeijer - Aidsfonds

Wednesday 6 December

Today started with a special satellite session on MaxArt: the crucial role of communities in implementing Test & Start in Africa and how to adequately fund them. The results of the Early Access to Art for All study in Swaziland were presented. Impressive to see how this programme has impacted the AIDS response on individual, community and national level. Moving was the story of a traditional leader, chief of the Nyakatfo Chiefdom from Swaziland. He was one of the first to openly test for HIV in his community and shared his HIV status - in his own words – “even with his wife and children.” He became a real supporter of knowing your status. This means sustainable results, after the MaxART program has ended. Lee waldorf, policy director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation made a statement about the necessity to have communities on board and enable them to take a role.
By Febe Deug - Aidsfonds

The session concluded with the Aidsfonds Fast Forward Award – a new initiative to enable organisations to upscale most innovative projects. Proud winner was Uganda Network of Young People living with HIV/AIDS. We are looking forward to welcoming them at AIDS2018 in Amsterdam as access to the conference was part of the prize.

At the Community Village booth we had a very interesting session: Speeddating with sex workers. The session allowed us to have an honest and direct conversation among others with sex worker and activist Pamela from Sisonke, currently living in South Africa. Participants were able to ask any questions to her and have a lively dialogue. The conversation went from her personal experience as a sex worker, mother, breadwinner to her perspectives as an activist for sex workers’ rights in South Africa. Pamela shared how important it is for the labour rights of sex workers’ to be recognized and how it can directly impact the quality of life and access to health services in the country. As a migrant, Pamela shared how the work of Sisonke has been fundamental to support other migrant sex workers to stand up for their rights and to advocate for decriminalization of sex work. The story of Pamela reinforces the importance for governments and stakeholders to place communities first in the response to HIV.
By Ivens Reis Reyner - Aidsfonds

Tuesday 5 December

Robert Carr Civil Society Fund grantee MSMGF, with their global and regional partners, presented satellite session "Mobilizing MSM to improve access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment in Africa" where MSM are forming drop-in centres to provide peer-education and support networks to ensure that the physcosocial needs are met by and for the community. The current environment of Africa was outlined, HIV prevalence amongst MSM in the Africa region is disproportionately high - with data missing due to very few regions mentioning MSM in health service strategic plans, or governments denying the presence of MSM and therefore not providing funding for populations that do no exist. By enabling local partners to form wellness centres run by and for MSM, they find that they are able to create community and provide safe and open space for MSM to receive prevention, testing and treatment for HIV and STIs.
By Nathaniel Miller - Robert Carr Civil Society Fund

The Aidsfonds booth in the Community Village officially opened with an informal reception, well visited by many of our partners present at ICASA.