At USCA 2018, the International AIDS Conference in 2020 Casts a Broad Shadow

September 7, 2018

Speakers at USCA 2018

Courtesy of AIDS United

At the 2018 United States Conference on AIDS, there has been much that could be considered familiar, yet inspiring. As has been the case in past years, 2018's USCA in Orlando, Florida has shone a spotlight on the work, advocacy and lived experience of more than 3,000 people living with HIV and HIV advocates. During the first 2 days of the conference, AIDS United and dozens of AIDS service organizations and activists have provided attendees with a host of workshops and presentations focusing on a wide array of issues ranging from harm reduction strategies and the need for increased cultural competency in HIV care to far-reaching plans to end the AIDS epidemic by enlisting the knowledge and support of all aspects of the diverse and powerful HIV policy, research and advocacy community.

However, if there is one thing about this year's USCA that is tangibly different than conferences past, it is the looming specter of the 2020 International AIDS Conference in San Francisco and Oakland, and the impact that the Trump administration's policies may have on HIV advocates across the globe. At the opening plenary for USCA 2018, Naina Khanna of Positive Women's Network-USA and Larry Walker of Thrive SS laid out their case for why the International AIDS Conference should not take place in the Bay Area in the summer of 2020, outlining myriad reasons why the political climate in America under the current administration is in hospitable.


During her speech, Khanna, who is based in Oakland along with the national hub of PWN-USA, stressed the many dangers and impediments that holding IAC 2020 in the Bay Area would present for some of the most vulnerable populations impacted by HIV both domestically and internationally. Citing the Trump administration's draconian immigration policies, the continuing ban on sex workers and people who use drugs from entering the United States, Congress's recent passage of the harmful anti-sex worker SESTA/FOSTA legislation, the financial burden inherent in asking attendees to find lodging in a city with the highest rental markets in the world, and The White House's indifference emboldening white supremacist groups, Khanna and Walker told the assembled conferees that it would be reckless and irresponsible to hold the International AIDS Conference in the United States at this time.

As Larry Walker put it during his remarks, "When I think about the iconic words that came out of The Denver Principles, 'nothing about us, without us is for us', I don't think about an International AIDS Conference that excludes sex workers, people who use drugs, people who are from what Trump likes to call 'shithole countries'".

The reaction from the crowd was at times muted, but largely positive. The group leading the charge to have the 2020 International AIDS Conference moved out of the United States, #AIDS2020ForAll, certainly realizes the personal and political complexities of asking HIV community leaders and advocates to call for the removal of the largest AIDS conference in the world from the United States where it could raise awareness for issues impacting people living with and affected by HIV in the United States but they say that any awareness that comes from such a conference would invariably be drowned out by the effects of the country's toxic political climate and the negation of a platform for the most vulnerable populations living with HIV across the globe.

[Note from TheBody: This article was originally published by AIDS United on Sept. 7, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]

Related Stories

HHS's Kaye Hayes and CDC's Dr. Eugene McCray Discuss Highlights From 2018 USCA
HHS's Kaye Hayes and HRSA's Antigone Dempsey Share Perspectives From 2018 USCA
Get an Insider's View of the 2018 U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA)

This article was provided by AIDS United. Visit AIDS United's website to find out more about their activities and publications.

Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.


The content on this page is free of advertiser influence and was produced by our editorial team. See our content and advertising policies.