Even before the conference began, we learned about new breakthroughs that might help in the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine. Researchers identified three antibodies that when combined provide protection against 99 percent of strands of the virus, and the primary antibody was found in a Black man.
A few days before the conference opened, President Obama released the first U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The strategy explicitly calls for focusing on the most at-risk populations including Black Americans, men who have sex with men and people living in the south and north east.
The first major story of the conference was about race, poverty and AIDS. To make sure that this story was characterized and contextualized in an accurate way, a delegation of Black journalists met with a representative of the CDC to provide a Black perspective on this study.
The third and most moving experience of this conference is the story about microbicides. This story is important for women, and it’s particularly important for Black women across the Disapora and in Africa. The fact that this extremely elegant clinical trial and presentation were performed completely by South Africans exposes the lie and the stereotype that Africa can’t deliver quality science.
The fourth leading story of the conference was PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP involves using a biological barrier in people who are HIV-negative to prevent HIV transmission. PrEP is most likely to be a strategy employed in populations where there are disproportionately high rates of HIV infection like Black America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa.
These are just a few of the stories from the XVIII International AIDS Conference included in this report. We’ve attempted to include stories that would be of particular importance to Black America from the activities presented by the African, Black Diaspora Global Network to the U.S. government’s delegation to the conference.
In our small way, the report attempts to chronicle the role of the CDC (including conversations and presentations by Dr. Kevin Fenton and Dr. John Merman), NIAID, HRSA, and U.S.-based community-based organizations as well as looking at what the pharmaceutical industry is doing.
There are stories about Black leadership from the Honorable Barbara Lee, Dr. Helene Gayle (the Chair of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS), Jeff Crowley (director of the White House office of National AIDS Policy), and philanthropist, Sheila Johnson.