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Gus Cairns
Published: 06 September 2010

It’s been that time of year when half NAM’s staff relocate to a vast HIV conference, this time in Vienna, while the other half sit up till the small hours processing our fevered despatches.

To me, at least, it was a frustrating conference, mainly because of the contrast between the treatment situation for people with HIV and their social situation, which seem to drift further apart every year.

On the one hand, we had scientists talking about ever-more comfortable drug regimens and strategies for a complete cure of HIV.

On the other hand there were numerous presentations that revealed that the prejudice against people with HIV and those vulnerable to it is, if anything, intensifying.

There were a number of workshops on the increasing, worldwide criminalisation of people for passing on the virus, or even just exposing people to it. Many sessions featured my predecessor as editor of HTU, Edwin J Bernard, who summarises the situation in Where HIV is a crime, not just a virus.

Edwin also wrote a piece for The Guardian about the recent conviction of a German singer:Nadja Benaissa's HIV trial is a distracting sideshow. If you want to know what some of the supposedly liberal readers of the Guardian think of people with HIV, view the comments on the online edition. They’re not pleasant reading.

Another group that still faces stigma is gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM): not so much in the UK, but to the point of capital punishment in a number of countries worldwide. In Finding our global voice, Jack Beck of the Global Forum on MSM and HIV explains why, 30 years after gay men noticed a deadly disease in their midst and devised a community response to it, it’s still necessary to have a separate MSM-specific sub-conference.  

There have always been demonstrations at international AIDS conferences, but this one seemed to feature them non-stop, with disenfranchised groups – injecting drug users, sex workers, transsexuals, TB patients – screaming at the doorway as the scientists and politicians talked big money inside.

In such a situation it’s easy, if you’re a person with HIV, to spend your whole time imagining that every frustration of life is caused by people having it in for you. That doesn’t always help when talking to people who are genuinely interested in your welfare – one of whom should be your doctor.

Storming into their consultation room waving a sheaf of internet printouts and yelling “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”isn’t usually the way to get the best treatment. But nor is sitting there too shy to mention the pain that’s been crippling you for a month.

In the middle of all this talk about stigma and politics, Lindsay and James from Living Well talk about how to create a dialogue between you and your doctor to get the best treatment (see How to talk to your doctor). If you want to fight injustice, you first have to live to fight another day.   

Issue 199: August/September 2010

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.