Tell Congress to Reject Cuts and #SaveHIVFunding

Join us in telling Congress to reject cuts and #SaveHIVFunding by sending letters to your Congressional representatives.

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CROI 2024

The 31st Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) will be held from March 3-6, 2024 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado.

The best and most consequential original research on HIV and related conditions will define the science at the conference. CROI 2024 will also accept important new findings on SARS-CoV-2 and the mpox virus. The in-person conference will also feature interactive sessions, poster sessions and networking opportunities.

Register for the Community Breakfast Clubs, virtual webinars hosted by the CROI Community Liaisons, the European AIDS Treatment Group, AVAC, and their global collaborators. Full details here.

Watch this space or subscribe to our Advocates’ Network newsletter for the latest from CROI 2024 including our forthcoming roadmap to help you navigate the conference — from Denver or afar.

What You Should Know About the FAPP, GAPP and PEPFAR Reauthorization

Engaging the US government is vital to advocacy for HIV prevention, as one of the world’s largest contributors to implementation and research and development. The reach and scale of US funded global health programs have profound impact on the lives and health of people in the US and around the world. Two coalitions, founded by advocates, make it their central mission to inform and influence the US federal government to advance funding and policies to end the HIV epidemic.

What You Should Know About the FAPP, GAPP and PEPFAR Reauthorization

By Kenyon Farrow

Engaging the US government is vital to advocacy for HIV prevention, as one of the world’s largest contributors to implementation and research and development. The reach and scale of US funded global health programs have profound impact on the lives and health of people in the US and around the world. Two coalitions, founded by advocates, make it their central mission to inform and influence the US federal government to advance funding and policies to end the HIV epidemic.  

In 2024, their work will be as important as at any time in the history of HIV advocacy; as funding for US programs is at stake and advocacy continues for the reauthorization of PEPFAR, one of the greatest US foreign policy and global development achievements in history.

AVAC’s John Meade was just elected co-chair of the Federal AIDS Policy Partnership (FAPP), a national coalition of more than 120+ local, regional, and national organizations advocating for federal funding, legislation and policy to end the HIV epidemic in the United States. John and co-chairs, Mike Weir of NASTAD and Kathie Hiers of AIDS Alabama,  will support the work of seven affiliated working groups, including the AIDS Budget and Appropriation Coalition and the Research Working Group, to produce analysis, build relationships with federal entities, and champion policies and funding that are essential to making progress.  

And AVAC’s Suraj Madoori co-chairs the Global AIDS Policy Partnership(GAPP), a 70 member coalition that leads advocacy for continued robust funding, expansion and improvement of US global HIV/AIDS programming through PEPFAR and the Global Fund. With co-chairs Katie Lapides Coester of EGPAF and Shannon Kellman, formerly of Friends of the Global Fight, now at UNAIDS, this coalition — comprised of civil society and faith-based organizations, funders, professional membership organizations and organizations that implement programs — will continue working every channel to spotlight success, combat misinformation and seize opportunities to secure a new five-year reauthorization of PEPFAR. See AVAC’s blog here.  

Since its creation in 2003 and through previous 5-year reauthorizations, PEPFAR has received near universal, bipartisan support in Congress. This past year, partisan lobbyists and their congressional allies derailed easy passage of its next 5-year reauthorization. In 2024, the GAPP will be mobilizing against efforts to politicize this singularly successful program, and will be working for renewed bipartisan support through the final resolution of federal budget negotiations.  

The efforts of the GAPP and the FAPP will remain essential to ensure sustained funding for efforts to end the epidemic, to save overall HIV funding and advance a national PrEP program in the US, and to win the reauthorization of PEPFAR. Be sure to watch this space for updates. 

Webinars to Look Out for in February!

2024 is off and running and a slew of webinars are on the calendar. This selection of topics is both broad and deep, providing updates on the pipeline from cure to vaccines, insights on critical advocacy, a conversation with the new director of NIAID, and opportunities for you to engage. Scroll down for what’s coming up and recordings of webinars from December and January that you may have missed.  

Coming up!

AVAC in Conversation with NIAID’s Jeanne Marrazzo

February 27, 11:30 am – 12:00 pm EST 

Join AVAC in conversation with the new Director of NIAID, Jeanne Marrazzo. Register here.

The New Public Health Order: How is Africa preparing for pandemics?

February 29, 9:00-10:30 am EST 

WACI Health and The Choice Agenda invite you to join us for a webinar introducing key initiatives of the Africa CDC and the African Union. It will illuminate roles for civil society and community engagement. Register here.

The Adolescent Medicine Trials Network (ATN): Research addressing HIV health inequities among US adolescents and young adults

Join The Choice Agenda for an overview of the newest cycle of the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network! This webinar includes highlights of: ATN 165: Linking Youth to PrEP Services, which tests an innovative mobile delivery and mHealth intervention for PrEP adherence and persistence among sexual minority men; ATN 167: Legal, Economic, and Affirming Peer Support (LEAP) for transgender and gender diverse youth; and how the network prioritizes and amplifies the voices of youth directly impacted by the ATN’s pivotal research. Register here.

Advocacy Navigator Program Info Session

February 13, 10:00-11:00 am EST

This webinar is intended for anyone interested in applying to participate in AVAC’s Advocacy Navigator program. The session will provide an overview of the program, expectations, eligibility, and application process, followed by Q&A with the AVAC team. 

In case you missed it!

Reporting the African Science Story: Decoding scientific research to support public health in Africa

Through the Media Science Café Program, AVAC partners with health media associations in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to bring journalists together with researchers, implementers, civil society, policy makers, regulators and policy makers to build relationships that will foster accurate reporting of HIV, COVID and other science or health stories in those countries. Learn about the model! Recording, slides and resources.

PrEPVacc: An in-depth look at the trial, and what’s next

This webinar reviewed key aspects of PrEPVacc, including its innovative study design, implementation, integrated social science, and data analysis plans. An engaging conversation about what we’ve learned from PrEPVacc, what we can still learn, and what this may mean for the HIV prevention field. Recording, slides and resources.

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month Webinar Series

Check out our 4-part webinar series on cervical cancer, which featured a deep dive on: what cervical cancer is, who is impacted, and prevention and treatment options; advocacy strategies to bring more attention to cervical cancer and its impact on communities; options for screening and treating cervical cancer along with ongoing research; and the impact of cervical cancer on key populations and those vulnerable to HIV infections. Recording, slides and resources.

HIV Cure and the Environment: How location informs cure research

This webinar reviewed core concepts discussed in the previous webinar, Let’s Talk About HIV Cure Research: An Introduction to the science under investigation, and introduced how the environment may impact cure strategies. Recording, slides and resources.

Learn more about the townhall discussion on Black Gay Men and HIV in the US featuring influential figures in the Black Gay community, including Ace Robinson, Daniel D. Driffin, and Kenyon Farrow by checking out highlights on AVAC’s Twitter page and watch the full recording

Thanks for checking out these conversations. We hope you will join us in these rich discussions and watch this space for future webinars!  

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The New Public Health Order: Strengthening Pandemic Preparedness in Africa

Click here to determine the time in your region.

WACI Health, RANA and The Choice Agenda invite you to join us on Thursday, February 29 for “The New Public Health Order: Strengthening Pandemic Preparedness in Africa”

This webinar will introduce key initiatives for the coming year from Africa CDC and the African Union and illuminate roles for civil society and community engagement. We will hear from both Africa CDC representatives and key advocates on the development of these initiatives and what goals they intend to achieve.

Speakers: 

  • Jens Pedersen – Senior Advisor for Africa CDC 
  • Noah Elias Tegene – Principal Health Policy and Diplomacy Officer for Africa CDC 
  • Dr. Fifa Rahman – Pandemic Negotiations Consultant for Africa CDC

Moderator:

  • Samantha Rick – AVAC

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Black Gay Men in the US

Global Black Gay Men Connect (GMBMC) hosted a town hall discussion focusing on Black Gay Men and HIV in the US featuring influential figures in the Black Gay community, including Ace Robinson, Dr. Daniel D. Driffin, and GBGMC board member Kenyon Farrow.

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HIV Cure and the Environment: How location informs cure research

AVAC and REACH for the Cure hosted a webinar to discuss how the environment may impact HIV cure strategies. During this webinar, both organizations explored how clades, co-infections, early treatment, and other factors can help inform existing approaches to HIV cure research. Dr. Adam Ward of Weill Cornell Medicine shared the latest data followed by an informal conversation.  

Recording / Dr. Adam Ward Slides

Even a baseline level of meaningful civil society engagement within international for a will do

We cannot build effective health infrastructure by erecting barriers to civil society and community leadership.

By Sam Rick, Multilateral Engagement and Pandemic Preparedness Advocacy Specialist at AVAC

From the beginning of the global HIV/AIDS response movement, often before governments and policymakers became engaged, civil society and communities have led the charge. In addition to providing direct prevention and treatment services – particularly to those often excluded from the health system due to discrimination, stigma, affordability, and physical access barriers – civil society organizations (CSOs) serve crucial roles holding governments and policymakers accountable, leading activists to demand essential services, and building trust within the community. 

This legacy is felt in the operations of the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria (GFATM). Both give civil society and affected community groups explicit roles in their governance and operation and provide direct funding to support their efforts or build capacity where needed. These programs have contributed to the growth of CSOs across HIV-burdened countries and increased recognition of the impact that strong civil society and community engagement can have on health outcomes. They support government program implementation by monitoring delivery at the local level, use their knowledge and expertise of hard to reach populations to inform program design, and urge public and private partners to act on emerging issues where political will and commitment falls short. The transformative impact of strong CSO and community engagement is the most important and enduring lesson from the global HIV/AIDS response.

Despite the hard-fought battles to secure the legitimacy and recognition of the baseline requirement of civil society engagement in the HIV/AIDS response over decades, new initiatives in other health areas have failed to meaningfully build upon existing engagement mechanisms and fully integrate CSOs as an essential driver of policy and programming. While some initiatives have opened up limited room for CSO engagement, the space at the table has only been secured after public criticism and organized campaigns. Advocates continue to be forced to have the same fight over and over with each new program or fund or secretariat, fighting to secure the absolute minimum of two voting seats and consultation before decisions are made. 

This is not a complete surprise. Globally, civic spaces are shrinking as global anti-rights movements are gaining momentum. Growing insecurity in the wake of international conflict flare-ups gives policymakers justification for rationalizing the limitation of meaningful civil society engagement. This dynamic has plagued international negotiations that had previously instituted meaningful engagement structures, including in the scaling back of civil society representation at the World Health Assembly, refusal to sanction a formal engagement mechanism for UN High Level Meetings, continuously dismissed requests for even observer status during Pandemic Accord negotiations, and hostility toward civil society and community advocates at international fora such as ICASA. For many governments, the global circumstances necessitate bypassing consultation and opting for rapid, decisive action, resulting in severely missed opportunities to improve health outcomes and program effectiveness. Beyond just a more limiting environment, the fiscal environment is shrinking as well, and meaningful engagement is costly. Bringing people to the table and giving them the space to truly influence decisions takes time and effort. Gathering wide input can often change scope and plans, sometimes throwing champions of a given initiative back to the drawing board.

Yet the cost of doing business and delaying start up in order to be sufficiently inclusive is an essential investment – what good is it to get money out the door quickly if it doesn’t go where it is needed? If services aren’t used, products expire, and disease spreads further? The short-term trade-offs of meaningful engagement are real, but they can be mitigated. We have over 20 years of experience to build on and leverage, and civil society and community advocates have decades of expertise in direct global health governance and service delivery to draw from. And as anyone who has spent any time in a Global Fund board meeting will tell you, there is little basis in some of the fears governments have around open, consultative processes. They do not descend into petty squabbles or dead-ends. They do not slow action or stymy decisions – for example, the Global Fund, with three voting seats allocated to civil society and communities, was among the most agile institutions during the COVID-19 crisis.

We call on decision makers, government representatives, and multilateral institutional leaders to enshrine a baseline level of meaningful civil society engagement practices within international fora, and to fight back against the growing tide of penning in valuable and essential expertise and networks.

We have seen in the 40 years of HIV/AIDS that meaningful engagement really turns the tide where biomedical interventions have plateaued in their usefulness. Preventing, preparing, and responding to disease outbreaks necessitates population trust, understanding of regional or cultural ways of working, geographical limitations, and true community needs. We cannot build effective health infrastructure by erecting barriers to civil society and community leadership.

New issue of POSITIVELY AWARE points the way towards a more equitable future

By Kenyon Farrow

In many ways the world is entering an era of HIV prevention that many of us have spent the last 40 years fighting for— there now exists multiple options for preventing HIV that are safe, highly effective and easy to use. 2012 saw the introduction of the first ARV-based prevention option—daily oral PrEP. And over the past two years, WHO recommended, and several national regulatory agencies have approved, injectable ARVs for treatment and prevention, as well as the dapvirine vaginal ring.  

While these advances are something to celebrate, this is far from the end of the road. Technological gains only go as far as people’s awareness of them, desire to use them, and access to them. And this is where we — as a public health community and as a planet of humans — struggle. Just like with the first ARV therapies in the mid 1990s, and the first PrEP pill for prevention a decade ago, we’re now four years into the FDA approval of the first long-acting ARV therapy and we are several years away from scaling up these long-acting medications and truly seeing the impact they can have on the lives of people (whether living with HIV or in need of PrEP), and on the HIV epidemic itself.  

It takes the HIV response far too long to move these innovative inventions to the point where they become medical miracles, experienced by everyone who needs and wants them, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex assigned at birth, pregnancy status or income. 

There is a new special issue of the magazine POSITIVELY AWARE, co-edited by Kenyon Farrow, AVAC’s communications director, and Jim Pickett, AVAC’s senior advisor and lead of the Choice Agenda, that explores the impact of long-acting injectable treatment and PrEP. The articles, including a piece co-authored by John Meade, AVAC’s senior policy manager, and Danielle Campbell of PrEP in Black America and longtime AVAC partner, speak to the humans involved in downstream research, and what their experiences as patients, researchers, advocates and medical providers of long-acting treatment and PrEP teach us about how these products could be transformative. These stories make clear how far we still have to go to change our health systems so that they can meet their maximum potential. 

AVAC will continue our work to advocate for global equity in access to prevention and treatment in all their current and future forms. We celebrate this issue of POSITIVELY AWARE as one collection of voices helping to point the way towards a more equitable future.