AIDS 2010 - Vienna - BLOG

AIDS 2010 - Vienna - BLOG

Due to extremely slow internet at the hotel and AIDS 2010 venue, posting of blogs is happening more slowly than hoped.  Combined reflections will be posted in the next day or so (as soon as possible) about activities on Wednesday and Thursday, which will include:

  • Sessions on criminalization, human rights and HIV
  • Session on Human Rights and Faith, including the presentation by Yvette Flunder.
  • Reflection on meetings between religious leaders and key populations
  • Overall reflection of the conference and looking ahead to 2012 in Washington DC

Posting of photos will also be available at UCAN's Facebook page and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance web site.
Note: You don't have to be a member of Facebook to view the photos on Facebook.


Tuesday, July 20

Written by Mike Schuenemeyer

Tuesday was amazingly full, with great speakers and sessions, capped off by a march for Human Rights.  In the morning plenary, Everjoice Win spoke in on Violence Against Women and Girls.  Win cited research that at least 1 in 3 women in the world (about 1 billion) have been beaten, forced into sex, or otherwise abused in the their lifetimes.  Usually the abuser is a member of her own family or someone known to her.  Up to 70% of female murder victims are killed by their male partners.  She said that both violence against women and HIV are pandemics and they intersect in deadly ways.  Gender inequality fuels them and they must be addressed from both a human rights and public health approach. 

The impact of violence against women is that it is aimed at maintaining unequal gender roles, behaviors, and power relations; it restricts women's lives & choices.  There are also cultural norms, including hetero-normativity (the privileging of heterosexuality), that perpetuate gender inequality and set the environment for violence against women.  "Culture is not above human rights," she declared, "and we must always challenge the notion that culture can be used to deny people their human rights."

Win said that Intersectionality is the key to deeply address issues, especially in terms of HIV. This intersectionality means that we must work with and strengthen women's movements and strengthen collaboration between movements.  Working collaboratively will put additional pressure on governments to enact and implement stronger laws addressing violence against women, upholding international human rights standards.  She also called on these movements to

  • Address roots of violence against women, HIV, and unequal power relations
  • Invest in women's empowerment: social, economics, political
  • Challenge and change gender norms, values, cultures, hetero-normativity
  • Strengthen evidence base approaches
  • Increase resources/funding to address violence against women and HIV
  • Consistently apply intersectional analysis

Click here to see the presentation and power point by Everjoice Win.

Also in the plenary was a fairly technical scientific presentation demonstrating the importance of early diagnosis of HIV infection and therapy.  There is growing body of evidence demonstrating the importance of early detection of HIV and administration of therapy which is shown to

  • Reduce the size of the HIV reservoir
  • Preserve immune function
  • Increase possibility of cure (by extending both the length and quality of life) and
  • Add significant health benefit to the individual

Studies show that maintaining HIV at undetectable levels is much more effective among those who are diagnosed soon after they become infected.  Early events in HIV infection are critical to ignition and propagation of HIV.  The sooner that can be inhibited the better.  Undetectable levels were able to be maintained in 44% those with early diagnosis of HIV infection, while 11% undetectable levels were maintained among those the presenter characterized as receiving treatment at later or chronic stages. 

The presenter also talked about some new science regarding how the virus infects the T-cell.  The T-cell is the command center of the immune system.  HIV attacks the T-cells, uses them to produce more virus and releases new virus in the body.  When T-cells are depleted, the body doesn't know how to fight infections and is vulnerable to diseases that healthy immune systems easily take care of. 

The T-cell has a number of receptors and HIV attaches itself to certain receptors, makes the connection to the T-cell, gains entry and replicates itself.  The CD4 is one receptor, but there are additional receptors HIV can attach to and gain entry.  These receptors are particularly prevalent in the T-cells of certain skin tissue which is more mucous, such as the foreskin of the penis.  This is a piece of the scientific explaining why men who are uncircumcised may be at higher risk for sexual transmission of HIV. 


Monday, July 19

Written by Mike Schuenemeyer

Opening of the Global Village

In stark contrast to the Opening Session of AIDS 2010, the Global Village opened on Monday morning with flair, "camp" and chaos on the main stage, during which Bishop Yvette Flunder (Sr. Pastor of City of Refuge UCC, San Francisco, CA)  was among a handful of faith representatives for the Multi-Faith Networking Zone. 

The opportunities to connect with people around the world working on HIV are as important as the sessions of AIDS 2010.  The Global Village is designed to be just such a space.  It is a noisy place of nonstop activity that provides conference delegates and the public with a space to connect, share, network, plan collaborations and participate in continuous programming that happens alongside the plenary, concurrent sessions, workshops and posters of the AIDS 2010 conference. The Global Village is full of exhibits, market spaces and networking zones for a wide array of key populations, global regions and other communities engaged in HIV response, including faith communities, a dialogue space for engagement with the International AIDS Society's Red Ribbon awardees, and networking zones for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), women, sex workers and others.

Sexuality Education

UNESCO unveiled their International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education, an evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers and health educators.  A recent review (2008) of the impact of curriculum-based sexuality education programs for young people designed to reduce pregnancy, sexual transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted disease on sexual behavior demonstrated that the effective of programs depended on whether they included skills building and other interactive activities or were more didactic in approach.  Among the 87 studies around the world that were reviewed, none of the sexuality education programs had a negative impact.  In other words, none of the programs hastened the initiation of sexual intercourse or increased the frequency of sex, number of partners, or sexual risk-taking. 

Programs that included skills building and other interactive activities tended to have more positive impact than more didactic styles.  These programs tended to delay initiation of sexual intercourse, decrease the frequency of sex, number of sexual partners, increased the use of condoms and reduced sexual risk-taking.  This will come as no surprise to those involved with Our Whole Lives, the comprehensive, across the age-span, sexuality education curriculum produced by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association.  This curriculum engages in values-based, age appropriate sexuality education that provides learners with medically accurate age appropriate information and engages them in activities that build skills for applying their values to decision making. 

Our Whole Lives is currently under-going a formal review to measure its effectiveness.  Nevertheless the UNESCO report is clearly indicates that the approach of Our Whole Lives is consistent with evidence around the world about what is most effective.  The news everyone should hear, is that sexuality education matters and all the noise supporting taboos about sex comprehensive sexuality education is just that… noise.  It's time to cut through it, break the silence in our churches and get on with providing our whole community with the gift of sexuality education.

  • Our Whole Lives is in the process of identifying 200 congregations for the formal evaluation of the curriculum.  If you are interested in participating contact Ms. Ann L. Hanson, UCC Minister for Sexuality Education & Justice, email:, Phone: 216-736-3718
  • More information about UNESCO’s International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education, an evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers and health educators, is at

Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer is the Executive Director, UCAN Inc., the United Church of Christ HIV & AIDS Network.

Sunday, July 18

written by Mike Schuenemeyer

AIDS 2010, the 18th International AIDS Conference, opened this evening in Vienna with a peaceful but raucous protest to call attention to the HIV/AIDS funding crisis.  The point was to build awareness of the seriousness of the situation.  Neither the G8 nor G20 meetings resulted in any commitments to sustain current funding levels, much less any commitments to continue to scale-up efforts.  Instead of meeting targets for Universal Access and Millennium Development Goals, governments are backing down from their commitment.

The report on the State of the Epidemic given by Yves Souteyrand, PhD, (Coordinator of the Strategic Information Unit in the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS Department in Geneva, Switzerland) made clear that while there have been advances in treatment and availability of anti-retroviral therapy (ART), the effort is not keeping pace with the disease.  While globally an estimated 3,500 people start HIV treatment every day there are also 7,400 new infections each day.  It is plain to see we are still way behind in stopping HIV. 

What we've learned however, not only are both treatment and prevention efforts important in stopping HIV, but there is a growing body of evidence that treatment is prevention.  Treatment that reduces viral load is proving to significantly reduce transmission, as much as 90% in terms of sexual transmission and as much as 50% among injection drug users.  From the opening of AIDS 2010 a key message that the community gathered here wants governments and the world to know is that this is not the time to scale down funding, which is critical to both sustaining and enabling efforts to reach the scale necessary to stop the virus completely.  Even without a vaccine, there are more than hints of optimism in the conference that this is achievable, but only by committed funding and action.

Dr. Souteyrand's state of the epidemic report also made clear the intimate connection between treatment and human rights in addressing HIV.  The ongoing persecution and criminalization of high-risk groups such as gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and intravenous drug users, coupled with a glaring lack of gender equality in large parts of the world, are undermining the ability to reign in the global epidemic of HIV-AIDS. Treatment alone will not stop this epidemic, nor will the implementation of human rights on its own.  Both are necessary.  Where human rights violations occur, the evidence shows that it drives risk behaviors underground and creates barriers to effective education, harm reduction and treat.  These situations create an environment which increases the risks and vulnerabilities for HIV transmission. 

The theme of the AIDS 2010, "Rights Here!" "Rights Now!" intensifies the sense of urgency to address the social and structural drivers of this disease.  People of faith are being challenged to step in response to these issues, as well.  Bishop Yvette Flunder has joined me to represent UCAN (the United Church of Christ HIV & AIDS Network) to listen and learn from others, and  to share from our perspective the important and vital role of faith in response to HIV, especially where human rights are concerned.  I hope you will check this blog regularly through the week to read our reflections on our active participation and leadership at AIDS 2010.

Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer is the Executive Director, UCAN Inc., the United Church of Christ HIV & AIDS Network.


Contact Info

Michael Schuenemeyer
Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115