Lance Sherriff and I, Theo Smart, are looking for support to go report on the AIDS 2016 conference and TB premeeting (both to be held in Durban, South Africa) for Aidsmap.com and to investigate whether there might be interest in continuing our most rewarding work in the field—namely the newsletter that I helped produce for more than 10 years: HIV/AIDS Treatment in Practice (HATIP) , which dealt with the practical aspects of delivering HIV (and TB) treatment and care in resource limited settings, at a time when treatment programs were only just beginning to scale up.
Now, with 17 million people on antiretroviral therapy, the question is how do we move forward from here.
At the XIII International AIDS Conference, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2000, people living with HIV, treatment activists and care providers from South Africa and around the world 'broke the silence' about the global HIV treatment disparity.
Combination antiretroviral therapy that had, by and large, made HIV a manageable chronic illness in industrialized countries was simply priced out of reach for people living with HIV in resource limited settings — and millions were dying.
This could no longer be tolerated.
That was the message of the 'Global March for Access to Treatment', where an unprecedented crowd of over 5,000 people marched, sang and toyi-toyied through the streets of Durban to the conference site.
It was a watershed moment for treatment activists and ushered in a new era, where continued activism and innovations, many of which were tried and tested in Africa, would eventually contribute to over 17 million people going onto antiretroviral therapy—something that was previously virtually unimaginable.
Now, 16 years later, the global HIV community is once again converging upon Durban at AIDS 2016 to discuss how to:
• Extend treatment to millions more who are still in need
• Address gaps in the HIV response
• Combat the threat of tuberculosis co-infection (still the leading cause of death among people living with HIV in most resource-constrained countries)
• Respond to emerging non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, that are becoming more common as people living with HIV age, and
• Sustain and retain millions of people on effective life long antiretroviral therapy.
Why this means so much to me?
The Durban 2000 World AIDS Conference also changed my life. I had been an HIV activist since late 1988 when I joined ACT UP New York. I translated that passion into becoming a medical journalist dedicated to sharing treatment information to improve the effectiveness and delivery of patient-centred medical services for HIV and tuberculosis (TB), and related or concurrent health conditions. But when I finally visited South Africa, I was overwhelmed by the neglected needs there, and the devastating impacts of HIV and TB on such dynamic people and in a land so full of promise.
And afterwards, I visited Cape Town, and met Lance who would become my partner in life and in my work as well.
So, I moved to South Africa, and looked for a way to become a resource to support local efforts on the ground. I worked with a wide range of doctors and patient groups in southern Africa, but found my rhythm working for Aidsmap.com, creating tools, training kits and newsletters that were highly lauded and used by people all over the globe.
But HATIP was the work I took the most pride in. It was primarily targeted to HIV and TB care providers, including nurses and expert patients, as well as policy makers in resource constrained countries. Mostly, it was just exploring how new medical and policy developments might affect practice in the field — and sharing the best practices of those working at the coal face of HIV and TB treatment delivery.
A couple of special HATIPS that received funding to be published as stand-alone booklets:
Think TB in People with HIV:
When we ceased publishing HATIP in 2012 due to lack of funding, the newsletter had over 30,000 subscribers in 207 countries across the world. 57% of those subscribers were residing in low and middle-income countries, 68% of whom lived in the 22 countries with the highest TB burden. It is our hope to, one day, get HATIP back up and running — and this trip to South Afrcia may represent our best and perhaps last opportunity of ever doing that.
Why do we need support?
I have been asked by my colleagues at Aidsmap.com to help them cover the conference. Aidsmap.com is a highly respected online news resource that works to save lives by sharing accurate evidence-based information about HIV and AIDS as well the opportunistic infections and other health complications experienced by people living with HIV. The site is visited by around 60,000 unique visitors each week and its newsletters go out to over 45,000 people.
Aidsmap.com is an official media partner for AIDS 2016, but they do not receive any financial support from the conference or the International AIDS Society to cover the meeting and cannot afford to send us there.
~ $3200 for airline tickets (smaller than most asks because we have airline miles to knock the price down a little).
~$500 for travel expenses within South Africa (car rental and petrol, as they call gas in South Africa).
Our ask is smaller than some others because we are contributing some of our own meagre resources to help cover our travel expenses, and, of course, Lance has family in the country with whom we can stay. They have even offered to feed us.
How soon will we need the funds? As soon as possible! The price of airline tickets is increasing. If we don't have enough money to cover the flights by July 6th, I will return any funds donated. The car related expenses would need to be in by the following week so that we can rent a vehicle.
If we succeed in raising funds, not only will I be grateful, but I will ask Aidsmap.com to include a mention of thanks to each individual who donates publically in any HATIP that is based upon this conference.
- Anonymous Anonymous
- Jonathan Dodson
- Jerry Lakatos
- Jose Zuniga
- Duncan Elliott