The 17th ICASA has kicked of at the CTICC, the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Thousands of researchers, pharmaceuticals, government departments, activists, and bilateral have come together to tackle the issue of HIV and STIs in the African continent. The setting makes it a bit easier for me, of course, it being 10 minutes from where I live; on the other hand it makes it hard to motivate myself to show up at all. For years and years we are trying to tackle the issue of the HIV epidemics globally, but still it seems that we are talking in circles.
I have done HIV related work for quite a while, and specifically concerning so called “key populations” such as transgender persons and sex workers; for years there ha’ve been cries for human rights, and the need to out the pandemic in a wider context of societal inequality, violence, stigma, and discrimination – especially considering those most at risk due to those societal issues. Yet, being at yet another conference I wonder how anymore conferences it will, take for people to finally listed properly at the well documented evidence that human rights are essential in turning around the HIV pandemic, especially in the so-called ” Global South”.
As always at such big conferences, three is a community village, the proverbial bone thrown at organisations who can’t afford the 4000 ZAR registration fee to attend the sessions in the main programme; as always, the energy in this particular space is palpable, but still so segregated from the abstract driven sessions elsewhere in the building. The space at ICASA is an illustration of how currently the response to the pandemic is being handled: the elite with their PhDs deciding with governments on how to move forward, with the comunity at the peripheral, shouting hard but eliciting nothing more handsome photos and shrug.