AIDS congress ends, hears more from affected communities
The International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) in Bali concluded Thursday with participating countries agreeing to strengthen their partnership and listen to more voices of affected communities.
Irwanto, head of the 9th ICAAP Scientific Committee, said during the closing ceremony that participants of the five-day event had acknowledged the need to involve HIV-affected communities in preventive treatment and care measures to tackle HIV/AIDS.
"Empowering people means the affected communities do not only regain, but also have ownership, of their voices," Irwanto said, referring to the theme of the congress "Empowering People and Strengthening Networks".
"It is important, therefore, to fully and constructively address any social, cultural and legal barriers preventing their meaningful participation.
"Opportunities and venues for communities to express their needs, concerns and ideas must be provided and we must listen and seriously act upon them," he added.
Dewa Nyoman Wirawan, co-chairman of the 9th ICAAP steering committee, told a press conference after the closing ceremony it was the first time affected communities were actively involved in the ICAAP after their scarce participation in eight previous ICAAPs.
Samlee Plianbangchang, regional director of the World Health Organization Southeast Asia, said, "Only when we have reached, treated and cared for every affected man, woman and child can we really think of achieving the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals)."
At least eight groups representing key HIV-affected communities took part in the congress, including networks of people living with HIV, sex workers, transgenders, homosexuals and drug users.
These groups actively advocated their right to live and work without being discriminated against nor stigmatized in many sessions of the event, which successfully drew over 4,000 delegates from 78 countries in Asia and the Pacific and other regions.