The organizers of HIV2020 Online published a set of ten recommendations aimed at the International AIDS Society (IAS), which has been criticized for its decision to bring this year’s International AIDS Conference to the United States of America (U.S.). Though both conferences will now take place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates argue that the decision reflects weak community engagement. The recommendations come ahead of HIV2020 Online and AIDS2020 Virtual events, which begin concurrently on Monday, July 6th.
The HIV2020 Conference was initially conceived as a safe alternative for sex workers and people who use drugs who would not have been able to attend AIDS2020 because of legal travel restrictions in the U.S. Additionally, the choice of San Francisco’s Bay Area would have excluded community members entering from countries who are on the Trump administration’s travel bans. HIV2020 was therefore planned as a protest against IAS’s selection of the U.S. to host its conference, which community advocates from around the world argued was unsafe for people of color, LGBTI people, Muslims, people who use drugs, sex workers, and transgender people – groups that are frequently the targets of state sanctioned violence.
HIV2020 Online is led by key population-led networks including The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), The International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD), MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights, and The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+).
“HIV2020 Online has been conceived by and for the communities most impacted by HIV,” said Ruth Morgan Thomas of NSWP. “We are challenging business as usual and we are inviting those in power to reflect on the potential of truly partnering with our communities”
The organizers of HIV2020 have doubled down on their efforts to speak truth to power with their set of ten recommendations to the IAS. They endeavor to work with communities to #ReclaimTheResponse from large institutions that continue to take top down decisions and fail to meaningfully address social justice.
“Communities need to be meaningfully engaged as equal partners at all levels of the global HIV response. We need to devote prominent attention to racial and economic justice, gender equality, and human rights,” said George Ayala, Executive Director of MPact. “HIV2020 Online is a chance to model new ways of convening experts for equitable knowledge exchange about issues that matter most to people living with and most affected by HIV.”
HIV2020 Online will now take place as a series of online events from the month of July through October. It’s opening plenary on Monday, July 6th will feature Winnie Byanyima of UNAIDS, Peter Sands of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Sigrid Kaag of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Trade, and Atlethse de la Torre Rosas of Mexico’s CENSIDA.