Testimony at the FDA Advisory Committee Hearing on daily oral TDF/FTC as PrEP

On May 10, a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee met to discuss whether to recommend that oral TDF/FTC (brand name Truvada) be approved for HIV prevention in HIV-negative adults. The committee ultimately decided to recommend approval, and an FDA decision is expected by June 15. The twelve-hour day included an array of presentations, questions and testimony from the public.

For many people who attended the proceedings or watched online, some of the most memorable remarks were made by Matthew Rose, a member of AVAC’s PxROAR program. “I ask you to give my community another option. I do not believe that a single drug or strategy will be what ends this epidemic. But give people options and choices that will work for them, things science tells us will give us a chance.” Copies of Matthew’s full remarks and those from other advocates—including AVAC Executive Director Mitchell Warren, amfAR’s Chris Collins, and others—are available at www.prepwatch.org. Visit PrEP Watch for continuing coverage of this issue.

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Africans telling the truth about voluntary medical male circumcision

AVAC team member Angelo Kaggwa is now partnering with other African advocates and AVAC partners, including Simon K’Ondiek at the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society in Kenya and Richard Hasunira at HEPS-Uganda, to lead an initiative called Africans telling the truth about voluntary medical male circumcision. These advocates urge for a speedy and accelerated scale-up of VMMC and other proven HIV prevention interventions across Africa to begin to end the AIDS epidemic. The campaign webpage will be a space for African men, women and allies to voice their support for VMMC, ask questions and voice their concerns.

Angelo himself underwent voluntary medical male circumcision almost a year ago and published an essay about his experience in the April 15 edition of Uganda’s Sunday Vision. The essay, Circumcision: My Experience, discusses Angelo’s decision to get circumcised, details every part of the procedure and healing process and talks about his enthusiasm to see other “busy” young African men get circumcised to reduce their risk of HIV infection.

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Shining a Spotlight on an AVAC Fellow

Kenyan activist Lucy Ghati is a 2012 Advocacy Fellow housed at the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK). Her work is focused on building an informed civil society base for influencing the Kenyan AIDS response. As the country prepares for an election Lucy and her close collaborator, AVAC Fellow Jacque Wambui (Health GAP-NEPHAK), are conducting nationwide dialogues about treatment as prevention with Kenyans living with HIV. They’re using feedback from these conversations to shape an AIDS “manifesto” that they hope to have adopted by all of the presidential candidates. The activism has also moved to the streets. In April, Lucy, Jacque and collaborators organized a march aimed at the US PEPFAR Program, demanding greater civil society engagement and allocation of the $500 million as yet undispersed PEPFAR funds. A memorandum was drafted to present civil society demands to the government of Kenya.

Lucy also sits on a global steering group that provides oversight on the implementation of the “The Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping their Mothers Alive”. In May, Lucy was at the first annual face-to-face gathering of representatives from the 22 focus countries since the launch of the Global Plan in 2011 in Geneva. She was quoted in a UNAIDS report noting the importance of community engagement in implementing the Global Plan.

While in Sydney for the International Microbicides 2012 Conference, Lucy was interviewed by Australian TV to talk about the importance of HIV prevention in women and also about her experience living positively with HIV in Kenya. Watch her interview as part of a feature on Sunrise TV.

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Fellows’ work highlighted at WHO-UNAIDS-UNFPA consultation

On May 7-8, WHO, UNAIDS and UNFPA convened a stakeholder consultation in Montreux, Switzerland, to discuss next steps for implementing the WHO technical note on hormonal contraceptives and HIV risk. Civil society was well represented at the meeting, and included AVAC collaborators from the ATHENA Network, Bar Hostess Empowerment Project (host of 2011 Fellow Grace Kamau), the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS East Africa (the host of Lydia Mukombe, 2012 Fellow) and AIDS-Free World.

In March and April, Lydia conducted a series of interviews with reproductive health providers in Uganda to find out what they were doing to implement the WHO technical note recommendation that women at risk of HIV using injectable progestogen-only contraceptive be strongly counseled to use condoms. The answer: Nothing new. As ICW EA director Lillian Mworeko reported at the Montreux meeting, five of Uganda’s largest service providers said that they didn’t see the note as a reason to change their programming. This report back was a key part of the discussion about the need to implement a well-structured communications strategy to reach service providers and other stakeholders. A guidance document is expected from this consultation, and advocates will be providing input and tracking the process to ensure that the convening agencies make good on their commitments.