Women and Prevention Research: Designing, testing and marketing products to improve adherence

From AVAC’s Research & Reality webinar series, this recent webinar focused on essential questions about what recent trials do—and do not—tell us about whether women will want or use prevention tools including microbicide gels, rings and oral tenofovir-based PrEP.

Download the recording and slides here.

Africans on the Front Lines of VMMC Advocacy

Over the past few years, the pace of scale-up of voluntary medical male circumcision for HIV prevention has finally begun to acclerate around Africa. Many different stakeholders have worked to make this happen—service providers, community educators, wives and mothers, and the millions of men who have stepped up to undergo this simple procedure, which reduces the risk of HIV infection by roughly 70 percent, for life.

AVAC is particularly proud to have partners with a wide range of advocates, including many of our Fellows, who have developed specific, strategic advocacy campaigns at the country level. Along the way, they’ve urged governments to pick up the pace, they’ve documented decision-making processes, they’ve rebutted inaccurate statements about VMMC, they’ve explored what it means for gay men and other men who have sex with men—and much, much more. This work is nowhere near complete, and we’re all focused on the strategies that will help pick up the pace to reach new ambitious targets. These champions, and others, will help lead the way.

Read more about some of this work here:

HIV R4P update and deadlines

HIV R4P is the world’s first global scientific meeting dedicated exclusively to biomedical HIV prevention research. The conference is expected to bring 1,200 to 1,500 research, program development and policy leaders to Cape Town, South Africa, 28-31 October 2014. Preliminary program at: http://hivr4p.org/program/scientific-program.

AVAC’s Annual Partners Forum

From February 11-13 more than 80 advocates from throughout sub-Saharan Africa gathered in Harare, Zimbabwe, for AVAC’s Advocacy Partners’ Forum, an annual event to take stock of recent developments in HIV prevention research and implementation and to develop a strategy for the coming year.

Highlights of this year’s Forum included plenary presentations on Kenya’s “Prevention Revolution Roadmap”—one example of how a country is structuring its approach to high-impact prevention; a review of the questions surrounding hormonal contraceptives and HIV risk; and energetic small-group discussions on the many steps on the “research-to-rollout” continuum.

Key interventions discussed included voluntary medical male circumcision and non-surgical devices, PrEP, microbicides, vaccines and treatment as prevention. Participants spent a portion of the final day planning for various scenarios that could emerge from the ongoing trials of microbicides, including 1% tenofovir gel, and the dapivirine ring.

Our partners truly shone throughout the three-day meeting. In addition to delivering plenaries and facilitating sessions, each day started with partners’ short talks in a session called, “Good morning, here’s what keeps me up at night…”, a concept inspired by the TED Talk model. One of the talks from this series is reproduced below.

Throughout the Forum, participants emphasized the importance of comprehensive and authentic civil society engagement. AVAC is working with partners through a new “strategic initiatives” effort that seeks to link interested individuals in short, focused advocacy efforts to respond to key emerging issues. If you’d like to take part or learn more, email us—and you don’t need to have attended the Forum to join in.

To learn more about the issues, check out AVAC’s Research & Reality webinar series, which is a year-long dialogue about key issues facing biomedical prevention advocacy today.

Good morning, here’s what keeps me up at night…

The following piece is adapted from a presentation given at the AVAC Partners’ Forum by Mannasseh Phiri, a columnist for Zambia’s Sunday Post and long-time HIV prevention advocate.

Several things really! First, at least one night every week I’m awake thinking which 1,000 words to write in my HIV/AIDS weekly newspaper column—before my deadline.

Secondly, elephants! The elephant in the room (that has brought us all together here in this forum!) is HIV—still consuming huge amounts of resources: financial, human, time, etc. There is a proverb from the eastern part of Zambia that says, “When ants are organized, they can kill an elephant”. I lie awake wondering why we, the ants in this room, are not well organized to fight this elephant that is HIV. Why do we in our countries do things differently from (and often without knowledge of) each other’s actions? Why for example is it that MSM/HIV research is permitted in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi where there are similar “colonial” laws criminalizing homosexuality to Zambia’s—where such research is not permitted?

In the Democratic Republic of Congo they have a nice Lingala proverb that says, “A dog has four legs but it only walks in one direction”. How many different directions are we walking as Africans—in HIV/AIDS prevention, research regulation, gay rights, etc?

The good people of Ghana have another proverb I like: “Like a turtle, a man should stick his neck out if he wants to go forward”. As advocates and activists we often must stick our neck out particularly on “sticky” issues. I recently had to go into hiding because I spoke out about homosexuality, MSM and HIV—and sections of Zambian society called for my arrest!

As for Uganda, I am even more confused now after hearing my long-time friend and activist Ruhakana Rugunda say that people of different sexual orientations should feel free to access health services without fear of discrimination! I am still looking for an appropriate African proverb for him and Uganda!

Finally, my five-year-old grandson Nicholas keeps me awake. Nicholas asks a lot of searching questions of me all the time. All of us have a Nicholas in our lives—young, inquisitive, innocent and searching for answers. I look at Nicholas’ eyes and I see him asking me “Koko! What kind of Zambia, Africa and world are you preparing today for my future? What if I am gay?” Look at and listen to your own Nicholas asking you tough questions and you will stay up at night too!