Be Heard: A preview of prevention activism in Durban

July 12, 2016

With less than a week to go until the International AIDS Conference, here’s the next in AVAC’s series of brief updates to prepare. In this one… prevention activism at Durban. What, where, why and how. We hope you’ll find this useful and thought-provoking whether you’re coming to an IAC for the first time—or whether this is familiar ground.

What does prevention activism mean in 2016?

As it was in 2000, access to antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV will be one important theme for this year’s meeting. That 35 years into the HIV epidemic, less than half of the 37 million who need ART are on treatment means that access continues to be a major issue.

Prevention activism starts with this premise and adds loud, specific, targeted demands for funding, programs and research for the things we know, and need, as combination prevention. This means male and female condoms and condom-compatible lubricant, comprehensive harm reduction, PrEP, VMMC, structural and rights-based interventions, and R&D for additional options. The world won’t end AIDS without targets, accountability and action around these interventions—and action won’t happen without activism.

Why is activism needed?

Because there are major, glaring gaps in HIV prevention worldwide. UNAIDS just took a stand on this with its first Prevention Gap report that highlights numerous places where we are failing. Just 2 percent of the people who need PrEP, according to UNAIDS’ target of 3 million by 2020, have access to it today—a situation similar to ART access around the last Durban conference. Also this week, WHO reported that the number of voluntary medical male circumcisions performed in 2015 declined by 20 percent from 2014. A month ago, UNAIDS put out its annual progress report which noted that there has been no decline in the number of new cases of HIV worldwide in the past five years.

This because public health systems are broken; there are not enough health workers; prices of new medicines and technologies are still high; and supportive policies and funding for community-led programs should be priority for any program implementation but this is hardly the case.

How should it happen at the meeting?

Anywhere that there is a conversation about ending AIDS, prevention activism is needed. You can do it by sporting a message—look for AVAC’ers and allies with prevention “red alert” stickers like the one in this message. You can also do it by speaking up.

Here are some questions to ask specific speakers and stakeholders?

  • UNAIDS leadership: How will you help lead the world to less than 500,000 new infections per year by 2020 and fill the gaps in your new report?
  • PEPFAR leadership: What will it take to get PrEP offered to adolescent girls and young women in all of the countries where you are implementing your DREAMS program, and how will you ensure that the newly-announced initiative for key populations has true impact?
  • National leadership: How are country targets and budgets aligning with global targets – for prevention, for key populations and for human rights?
  • Session chairs: Where are the voices of the people leading the fight? Those most highly burdened and underserved, including young women, should be front and center of the conversation, leading with their voices and not being talked about from the podium.

Where should it happen?

It’s time activists shaped the International AIDS Conference to ensure these issues are raised and rhetoric matches action. Community needs to set a new global agenda in its response. Activists could start by showing up, grabbing a sign, marching, demanding answers of decision-makers, meeting with media, blogging and being counted. See you in the streets!


  • Activist Strategy Session: An all-day strategy workshop led by MSF, TAC, ITPC and Health GAP to strategize treatment for 30 million people with HIV by 2020; Sunday, July 17 at 8:30am – 4:00pm; The Royal Hotel, 267 Anton Lembede St, Durban, 4001
  • Activist Meeting: Join TAC, Health GAP, SECTION27 and MSF to discuss the Treatment for All march and other actions for AIDS 2016; Sunday, July 17 at 6:30pm – 8:30pm; The Royal Hotel, 267 Anton Lembede St, Durban, 4001; RSVP here;
  • Red Card Actions: A group of organizations are printing red cards to hold up in conference sessions when speakers are using rhetoric that is not matched by action. These will be handed out to activists at the beginning of the week.
  • Treatment March: Join TAC and Health Gap March for Quality Treatment for All; Monday, July 18 at 12pm–3pm; Meet: King DinuZulu Park;
  • No Sterilization March: Join ICW and ICWEA and others for March Against Coerced & Forced Sterilization of Women Living with HIV; Tuesday, July 19 at 12pm; at the AIDS 2016 Conference.
  • Responding to UNAIDS’ Session: From Commitments to Action: Implications of the 2016 UN High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS; Join MSMGF in action planning in response to the UN High Level Political Declaration, Wednesday, July 20 at 1pm – 2:30pm; at the MSM Networking Zone, Global Village, Booth 617.
  • Code Red: Demand a New Era in the AIDS Response; Global Call to Action by TAC, Health Gap and +SECTION 27; endorse Call to Action here.
  • HIV Prevention 2020: A framework for delivery and a call to action; read the Lancet’s latest issue for a worldwide plan to reduce HIV incidence.
  • Activism for Hepatitis C Drugs: Join ITPC in calling on drug company Gilead to stop blocking the the registration of sofosbuvir so it can be used in combination with daclatasvir; and to stop threatening generic drug production in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. For details, contact
  • Indian Government Crack-down on Activist Organizations: Activist discussion hosted by Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Health GAP and Lawyers Collective on Potential against government attacks civil society organizations and detrimental effects on intellectual property in India. For information on actions, contact
  • Global Fund Replenishment: International Civil Society Support (ICCS) and Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN) are organizing a number of actions/events focused on targeting key donor countries regarding contributions to the Global Fund. There will be a Call to Action during the press conference on Wednesday, July 20 to launch the Cost of Inaction report. For more information, contact ICCS.


Check out the HIV Prevention Roadmap of relevant sessions and activities at the conference, and the Research Literacy Networking Zone in the Global Village—a destination we hope will be on your path through a busy conference week.

And take a look at this slide set that gives background and detail on Durban activism past and present in context—including the organizers, “asks” and timing of upcoming marches.