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EngenderHealth at the International AIDS Conference 2010

Beginning on Sunday, July 18, policymakers, scientists, program experts, persons living with HIV, and others committed to ending the AIDS pandemic will gather in Vienna, Austria, for AIDS 2010, the 18th International AIDS Conference. Visit us at Booth #418!

Paul Perchal, director of EngenderHealth’s HIV/STI Program, will be among the conference participants. Paul’s commitment to this field is in part the legacy of losing two of his closest friends to AIDS during the mid-1990s. Gearing up for the conference, the theme of which is “Rights Here, Right Now,” Paul offers his perspective on the upcoming week in this brief Q&A:

As we head into the conference, what do you see as the most vital issues facing the field? Universal access to prevention, care and treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS, regardless of where they live, remains paramount. The economic crisis means that donors are rethinking their priorities, and that some of the gains we’ve made in recent years could be undermined. There’s also renewed focus on human rights, and increased recognition that in places where HIV stigma persists, people just aren’t getting tested. Likewise, pregnant women are not accessing care and treatment to prevent transmitting the virus to their newborns. We really need more effective strategies to reduce stigma and its effects.

Male circumcision is also receiving wide attention. It has been proven to reduce the risk of HIV transmission in men by up to 60%, and many governments are now introducing large-scale programs to make the procedure widely available. In Kenya, for example, the government is rapidly expanding services so that 1.1 million men can opt for the procedure by 2015. While not a panacea, male circumcision is an essential tool for HIV prevention that is currently not available to millions of men who want it.

How will EngenderHealth be represented at the conference? EngenderHealth’s expertise in reducing HIV-related stigma, engaging men to prevent HIV in their relationships and communities, and preventing mother-to-child transmission, along with what we’re learning in our large-scale male circumcision program in Kenya, will be showcased through special satellite sessions, oral presentations, and more than 20 posters. I’m especially excited that we’ll be sharing the results of our safety study of the Shang Ring, an innovative male circumcision device.

What are you most looking forward to? The International AIDS Conference is always an opportunity to be part of the conversation about the direction the field is going in. It’s also inspiring to learn the latest in technical and clinical breakthroughs, and to engage with young and emerging leaders. Of course, it’s also great to catch up with colleagues. The opportunity for an exchange of ideas around our innovative work and for collective problem-solving is really incomparable.

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