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Organizers of #AIDS2020 Address HIV Activists' Concerns


The International AIDS Society has issued a letter to HIV activists reflecting their concerns about the 2020 conference taking place in San Francisco. 

Beginning this summer at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam (#AIDS2018) protests erupted almost daily over the International AIDS Society’s decision to hold the next conference in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2020. 

Protests against holding the next conference in the U.S. have arisen from many fronts, including opposition to Trump and the fact that many of the delegates invited to the conference might not even be allowed into the country because of new customs and immigration rules. The cost of traveling to the U.S. has also been raised, as it may be prohibitive to disadvantaged groups like trans women, sex workers, and injection drug users, who are most impacted by the HIV epidemic globally. 

The following is an open letter sent to IAS members (of which I am one) and the public from the the Conference Coordinating Committee:


We are proud of the communities we are – people living with HIV; men who have sex with men, transgender people, and other LGBTQI people; racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous people, immigrants and refugees; sex workers and people who inject drugs. We are scientists, clinicians and community advocates. We represent an international community, a United States and other countries around the globe that are resisting divisive politics and united in this historic and collective fight to end the HIV epidemic.  Within the United States, we represent Oakland, San Francisco, southern states and major cities across the nation. In this capacity, we are honoured to assume the responsibility as the leadership body of the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020) and take on the role of the Conference Coordinating Committee (CCC).

In just under two years, our HIV community will gather in Oakland and San Francisco for AIDS 2020 which comes at a critical moment in the global fight against HIV.  Moreover, this conference is occurring at a critical point in the history of the host country, the United States. Never has it been more important to make our collective voices heard.

With great challenge comes great opportunity. We know from experience that the conference has the power to unite diverse voices to confront harmful policies and draw international attention and resources to ending the epidemic. We came together in Vancouver in 1996 to usher in the HAART era.  We came together in 2000 to face AIDS denialism in South Africa. Now, the selection of the US is giving us the opportunity to stand up and seize this moment – and leverage this powerful platform – as a united community and to drive meaningful change.
We had broad community support from organizations and persons living with HIV in San Francisco and Oakland to hold the meeting in the Bay Area. Moreover, key political leaders in California all committed their support to AIDS 2020. We believe in this opportunity so much that we are committing our time over the next two years to fulfil important roles within the AIDS 2020 CCC and to make this committee one that is responsive to the needs of all people living with and at-risk for HIV.
In assuming our roles on the CCC, we commit to planning an impactful AIDS 2020 agenda that allows us to celebrate and learn from our successes while constantly pushing for advances in science, programmes and policy. Over the coming months, we will be seeking your input, and working closely with the International AIDS Society and partners to ensure that the conference is as accessible as possible to all who wish to attend. We are committed to a global gathering that gives a voice to all communities, shares solutions, and advances the conversation to end this epidemic.
We are excited to head to the Bay Area of California, a part of the world deeply entwined with the history of the global AIDS response – an international hub of both activism and science. The Bay Area has been at the forefront of advances from basic science to treatment and prevention breakthroughs and has been at the frontlines of advocacy, fighting back against unacceptable policies. Through the unique partnership of Oakland and San Francisco we can show two sides of the same coin—the successes that San Francisco has had and the struggles that Oakland is still facing.
Every host city or country comes with its own immigration challenges and we recognize the specific challenges we will face in the US. However, strong political commitment is the backbone of a meaningful and impactful conference. It was the unparalleled political leadership demonstrated by the State of California that helped secure the bid. California, and Oakland and San Francisco in particular, have a long history of resisting unjust policies, including immigration reform and refugee quotas.
With the selection of the Bay Area for AIDS 2020, we have the chance to elevate US and global HIV concerns on to the national and international stage. That includes shining a spotlight on and working to reform unjust policies that restrict entry into the US and other countries and perpetuate a climate of stigma and fear. This is a rare moment to put HIV and those most affected, including people of colour, minorities and the economically disadvantaged, at the centre of political discussion. It won’t be easy, but we will rise to the challenge and work together – as we always have – on fighting prejudice, racism, sexism and isolationism wherever it happens
While we recognize that we take different approaches to achieve the same goal, what has fundamentally made our community strong was the mutual underlying respect for one another. We are all fighting the same fight against HIV and we look forward to joining forces as the AIDS 2020 CCC to do this together.
The AIDS 2020 Co-chairs
Anton Pozniak, International Chair
Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust
United Kingdom
Cynthia Carey-Grant, Local Co-chair, Oakland
formerly Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases
United States
Monica Gandhi, Local Co-chair, San Francisco
University of California, San Francisco
United States
Signed by your AIDS 2020 CCC members:
Adeeba Kamarulzaman
University of Malaya
Andrew Ball
World Health Organization
Beatriz Grinsztejn
Evandro Chagas National Institute of Infectious Disease – Oswaldo Cruz Foundation
Carole Treston
Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
United States
Chris Beyrer
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
United States
Erika Castellanos
Global Action for Trans Equality
The Netherlands
Hyman Scott
San Francisco Department of Public Health
United States
Javier Bellocq
The Global Network of People Living with HIV
Jintanat Ananworanich
Military HIV Research Program
United States
Joe Hollendoner
San Francisco AIDS Foundation
United States
Judith Auerbach
University of California, San Francisco
United States
Kathie Hiers
AIDS Alabama
United States
Kevin Osborne
International AIDS Society
Mandeep Dhaliwal
United Nation Development Programme
Manuel Venegas
University of Washington
United States
Marama Mullen
International Community of Women Living with HIV
New Zealand
Marina Klein
McGill University Health Care
Mary Ann Torres
International Council of AIDS Service Organizations
Midnight Poonkasetwattana
Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health
Morten Ussing
The United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS
Shannon Kowalski
International Women’s Health Coalition
United States

Steffanie Strathdee
University of California, San Diego
United States
Trevor Stratton
International Indigenous HIV and AIDS Community
Vuyiseka Dubula
Africa Centre for HIV/AIDS Management, Stellenbosch University
South Africa

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