Demanding PrEP at SA AIDS 2015: Scenes from an Activist “Smackdown”

June 11, 2015

Fifteen years after activists marched for HIV/AIDS treatment access at the International AIDS Conference in Durban in 2000, a group of South African activists are demanding access to PrEP for HIV prevention as an option for all South Africans who need and want it.

In a statement issued today, activists called for swift action to get daily oral Truvada as PrEP approved for South Africa and to expand access to PrEP for all who need it. They also warned against anti-PrEP propaganda noting that, “As South Africans, we know too well the human cost of misinformation about HIV and of waiting too long to implement life-saving, evidence-based HIV interventions. We call on the MCC of South Africa and the Department of Health to prioritize enabling access to this HIV prevention medication.” (Full statement available here.)

Shortly after the statement was finalized, International AIDS Society president Chris Beyrer delivered a plenary address at the South African AIDS Conference (SA AIDS), during which he—as one advocate in the audience described—offered a “a full-throated endorsement of PrEP, made a specific call for PrEP in Africa, South Africa, and called to task PrEP denialism”. He even presented a summary slide of the local activists’ statement:

The activism continued into the evening as activists crowded the room during a satellite session and voiced their support for PrEP in South Africa (and beyond) and brought clarity and facts to a discussion on PrEP data, feasibility in the South African context and the true need and wants of communities on the ground.

Long-time AIDS treatment and prevention activist Peter Staley described the activists’ comments in a POZ blog and pictures and quotes from the action from Twitter are summarized here.

Check back on the P-Values blog for more from the conference and voices from local activists and partners moving the HIV prevention research and implementation agendas.