Plants, PrEP Posters and People: The Research Literacy Networking Zone at AIDS 2016
July 28, 2016
We didn't know how it would go.
We never anticipated that our hopes would be exceeded -- through five days of constant action in the Global Village, the buzz at the RLNZ was nearly relentless.
AVAC and partners IRMA, NHVMAS, TAG, WACI Health, and WRHI worked together to make the Zone come to life. We spent five days on our feet distributing materials, playing educational games, running sessions, and mostly, talking to people. We saw formal sessions with dedicated speakers draw participants who filled the space and spilled into the aisle-way around the Zone. We saw the impact of having a researcher sit in a circle, rather than stand at a podium, to speak with community members. We saw the power of working one-on-one to make sense of data from an infographic about the effectiveness of PrEP for women. We saw what can happen when someone from Philadelphia sits on a couch with someone from Nairobi and talks about vaccine research in their respective countries. It's hard to capture in words the richness we experienced, but here are some highlights of what we saw, heard, and felt in the Zone.
Monday: Today's highlight came when Nobel Laureate Françoise Barre-Sinoussi made a surprise appearance at the session Understanding HIV Cure Research. She took the microphone, ignored the podium and warmly addressed the large group attending the session. She urged them to find meaningful ways to explain "cure" to their communities. Much of the session's discussion focused on the meaning of "functional cure", "remission" and "sterilizing cure", highlighting the importance of being able to explain these terms in lay language. Many walked away with a new appreciation for the challenges of cure research and the many steps along this path.
Tuesday: Another leader in the AIDS world visited the Zone today -- Emilio Emini, the Director of HIV at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Emini has a long and distinguished career in HIV research and may have been the perfect person to sit with community members and discuss research issues across the board. Dr. Emini caught our attention at this session when he said the research field will be taking a page from colleagues working on the contraceptives pipeline. Like them, he wants to roll out what we have, as imperfect as it is, while we urgently seek new options that address the needs of end-users. As various HIV prevention research fields move into later phase trials and potential rollout, this is a space to watch!
Wednesday: One of our highlights today was a packed session about advancing PrEP advocacy. We heard loud and clear in this session, and all week, that people know PrEP. This is a marked difference from even two years ago at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, highlighting the rapid expansion and success of PrEP advocacy at community, policy, healthcare and funding levels across the globe.
I wasn't sure, but something worked.
This was a first for an AIDS conference -- but it surely can't be the last.
This article was provided by AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention. Visit AVAC's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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