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Emotional start to gay part of HIV conf

Sat 19 Jul 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News

The gay and bi men's section of the World AIDS Conference has begun emotionally as co-chair Don Baxter noted the weekend’s programme was now missing at least one speaker who perished on flight MH17. Chris Beyrer Early reports of 100 delegates to the overall conference being killed in the crash are not correct, but an actual number is not yet available. The names of most victims of the flight have not yet been released. Baxter also asked delegates gathered in the Melbourne Town Hall to think of those who couldn’t attend because they were literally in hiding, in countries were homosexuality is illegal. International AIDS Society president-elect Chris Beyrer received a warm welcome as he committed to giving voice to gay, bisexual and trans communities who are still marginalized in the international HIV response. He pointed out that he will be the first openly gay IAS president in the organization’s 26-year history. Professor Peter Aggleton In a speech met with strong applause, Australian delegate Professor Peter Aggleton encouraged people to distinguish the rhetoric surrounding bio-medical HIV prevention from the reality confronting gay communities worldwide where new infections are rising. Aggleton suggested delegates ought to be wary of the “ideology” developing around “Treatment as Prevention” and PreP. These as yet unproven methods of decreasing the likelihood of HIV transmission from man to man are being touted as a significant advance in HIV prevention, despite real world challenges of how to combine these with existing strategies, and achieve the necessary intensity , duration and scale. Dr Peter Saxton New Zealand HIV researchers and academics including Peter Saxton and the AIDS Foundation have repeatedly sounded warnings about the dangers this trend may mean to communities of men who have sex with men. The voices of gay communities were being gradually sidelined, Aggleton argued, and will have to fight to have their doubts heard. Saxton, who was at the meeting, said “it was a call to gay communities to avoid being passively co-opted into other people’s agendas in HIV prevention that claim quick fixes and easy remedies. To resist the sanitisation of sex, where open discussion of practices is considered impolite, and instead demand that sex, sexuality and the erotic be taken seriously as things that profoundly matter to people”. Two presentations from New Zealand featured the NZAF’s Joe Rich showcasing the sex-affirmative LYC online media engagement, and Nick Laing discussing New Zealand’s focused strategy on condoms and rapid testing.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Saturday, 19th July 2014 - 11:39pm

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