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AIDS 2016

The 21st AIDS Conference has transformed the City.

WHILE global decision makers in governments, medical and social spectrum unite in Durban for the 21st International AIDS Conference to share best practices, learn from each other’s research and experiences and develop new strategies at the conference halls of the ICC, civil society organisations from around the world got the difficult conversations going at the Global Village.

Current and forthcoming studies of vaccines to prevent HIV infection have created a new optimism that the long and challenging road to the development of such a vaccine has begun to take some promising turns. Updates on the search for preventive vaccines, presented at the Conference this week included information on advances in the development of novel vaccines, and in the field of antibody mediated prevention (AMP).

Meanwhile Durban’s art precinct close to the conference is transformed into plethora of HIV/AIDS related information, activities and info-tainment which is open to the public. The KwaMuhle Museum has the interactive South African Voices exhibition where an interactive exhibition allows one to follow the historic journey through artefacts, artistic, historic, audiovisual and photographic items that pay tribute to people affected by HIV/AIDS in the country. Debbie Heustice, SA Voices project director said, “We are making a deliberate attempt to bring secondary school children here so they can be part of the AIDS 2016 conversation and not just passive visitors but involved in our community debates and workshops.”

Neetha Morar, senior researcher at the South African Medical Research Commission, who held some of the workshops at the exhibition said, “Having input from learners was an eye opener when it came to gender roles and difficulties facing young girls. It is critical to not only target the girls with information but engage family, community and society as a whole.”

Meanwhile the Ask a Sex Worker stand at the exhibition proved a hit with young people engaging with Mapule Dick, a sex worker from Sisonke sex workers movement who gave talks on safe sex at the interactive exhibition. “We can’t stop youngsters from having sex, but we can appeal to them to be safe if engaging in sex. I’m also here to try and change the image of sex workers, We are not bad, dirty, drunkards or druggies, we also do community work,” she added.

Inside the AIDS 2016 Global Village, the conversations about HIV, Stigma and social implications as well as gender issues continue in a larger than life way. Serious conversations, fun talk shows, storytelling, public art and heated debates as well as the occasional celebrity sight are all part of the activities which are open to the public.

Shanice Phillips of the Ashe performing arts company in Jamaica that deals with issues around HIV prevention and care for the vulnerable transgender and sex worker community in their country said the global village was so “exciting.” “We use edutainment to perform and educate our community about HIV testing, offer them counselling and have a referral programme so we are learning so much about the rest of the world and how they are dealing with similar issues at the Global Village. Each stand has so much experience and wealth of knowledge, we are just absorbing all of it. It’s our first time in South Africa and we are really enjoying Durban,” she said,

Simran Shaikh, from India told Berea Mail he is in town for the first Trans pre-conference over the weekend. “We are here to show our existence and create awareness for transgender people. It is high time society stops ignoring the trans community,” Simran added.

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