International AIDS Conference Day 2: Own It, Fund It, Measure It!

It’s been a whirlwind 48 hours since the start of AIDS 2012, and I find myself constantly running from session to session, absorbing as much information as I can from the multitude of panels, symposia, abstracts, posters, satellite events, and workshops. (Check out the full conference programme here). Even more important is the opportunity to connect and network with like-minded advocates, researchers, and leaders in the global response against HIV/AIDS. The epidemic touches every corner of the globe, and it is inspiring to meet activists from South Africa to New Orleans to Peru. Only together, in the truest sense of the word, can we begin to turn the tide.

Here are three highlights from the sessions I’ve attended so far:

1. [OWN IT] In-country ownership of health programs is becoming increasingly urgent in order to achieve both national HIV/AIDS goals as well as the Millennium Development goals. The traditional model of donor/recipient aid is outdated and must be replaced by true partnerships and greater African domestic investments. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah shared a panel with government, business, and civil society leaders from Ethiopia, Thailand, and Trinidad and Tobago to discuss leadership and accountability in the response against HIV/AIDS. According to the latest UNAIDS report, 81 countries have increased their domestic investments for AIDS by over 50% in the last five years.

2. [FUND IT] The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria remains essential for Africa. Dr. Akudo Anyanwu Ikemba (Friends Africa) moderated a distinguished panel composed of three health ministers (from Namibia, Nigeria, and Ghana), the singer/activist Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the deputy executive director of the Global Fund Debrework Zewdie, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Each panelist gave moving testimonies of how the Global Fund is saving lives in their respective countries. The session also served as the official launch of a new publication from Friends Africa, “What the Global Fund Means to Africans.”

3. [MEASURE IT] And my personal favorite, a satellite session on the “Role of Extremely Large Datasets in HIV/AIDS and Other Diseases.” Yes, indeed, there was a panel dedicated entirely to extremely large datasets. Global HIV/AIDS studies can generate huge amounts of data, and there are certain challenges that go along with harnessing these datasets. Panelists discussed a number mathematical models, statistical analysis, and opportunities for global collaboration. As a numbers guy, I absolutely loved it!

These are only a few of the many sessions that are keeping Erin and myself busy throughout the week. Keep checking back for more highlights. With three days to go, we’re not even halfway through!