Globalizing the message post Mexico
The International AIDS Conference gives a platform to everyone working in the field to present research findings and to discuss ways of improving the global response. This year, the organizers wanted to find a way to extend the dialogue beyond Mexico. Members of the AIDS 2008 Secretariat and the International Aids Society (IAS), the umbrella organization that sponsors the semi-annual conference, approached the Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) ahead of their August conference to help find a solution.
Working with local IAS counterparts, GDLN partners in four regions organized themselves into regional hubs, where for three-days in October they held consultations to bring the issues from the Mexico conference to a local level.
A global consultation
The consultations brought together key HIV/AIDS experts, government officials as well beneficiaries to share their experiences in combating the epidemic as well as their recommendations and action plans with peers connected from all regions of the world.
On October 9th, a global dialogue was organized as a report-back session from six regional workshops held on selected topics from the Mexico conference. Two days prior, GDLN partners (hubs) in Indonesia, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand held consultations in their countries with key HIV/AIDS experts, policy-makers, government representatives, private sector organizations and NGOs to localize outcomes from the conference, produce actionable steps and then share them with the rest of the global community.
Debrework Zewdie, Director of the Bank’s Global HIV/AIDS Program, noted: "This follow up, carrying evidence and discussion from the AIDS conference on what works and what does not work, to country level, and then applying it to improve and continue to scale up national and local responses, is at the heart of the conference theme of 'Universal Action Now!' "
Through GDLN, the dialogue also demonstrated the importance of sharing knowledge among countries so that one could benefit from the other’s experience. “There are so many lessons for us to learn from,” commented Dr. S.Samarakoon, Veneralogist at the National STD/AIDS Control Programme from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health. As a participant, she added “we have heard from other countries what their interventions have been and we look forward to discussing these issues again in the future. Hearing their best practices, getting their advice and their guidance is very critical for us, to remain a low prevalence country.”
In addition to learning from each other, the exchanges provided an opportunity to show how they were able to adapt some of the technical guidelines from Mexico to their own local contexts. Most recommendations presented during the global dialogue highlighted the fact that it was not sufficient to adapt action plans at the national level but it was important to adapt as well to sub-national and local perspectives.
For example, the action plans presented by the Philippines included, involving religious and faith-based organizations in the national AIDS responses to anti-stigma and discrimination programs; ensuring access to diagnosis, treatment and care at low or no cost; promoting donor harmonization and alignment around the national AIDS response; and ensuring that communities are involved in designing, monitoring and implementing programs.
Commenting on all the exchanges, Elizabeth Lule, manager of the Bank’s Africa HIV/AIDS taskforce (ACTAfrica) said “it is important that we do not criminalize HIV prevention. Let’s make it work with the people not only for the people. Inclusion is critical to the success of national responses. It is a virus, not a crime.”
Keeping the message alive
Plans are underway to look at how the initiative can be scaled up through regional networks that would focus on local issues and lead to real development impact.
“It is gratifying to see that what came from the big conference in Mexico has been looked at through local lenses, given a local context and what we got back is very precise and sharp materials that can be used for action and follow up,” said Bernard Kadasia, Senior Manager, Regional Development, at IAS. “The Aids conference would not have an impact unless you see changes in the quality of the lives of people living with HIV. To achieve this, it is very important that the rich materials shared reach as many people and stakeholders as possible. We believe this initiative can leave a mark on the particular country where it has taken place.”