Dear Readers, I made a promise to myself that I will try and report something everyday from my stay in Washington DC . I have arrived yesterday night and today I have attended the first day of the LIVING 2012 summit organized by GNP+. I have also being live tweeting like mad: you can follow me on @HIV_SpeakingUp.
I am high on jetlag, and the change in temperature so not sure if I will be able to make sense. It has been an exciting and exhausting day and I have seen many old friends from different parts of the world. I will not go in the detail of the conversations we had during the Summit about key topics such as: access to treatment, human rights, criminalization, sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The issue of treatment as prevention was heatedly debated. So many divergent opinions in the room. Something that stood up once again for me is how important our involvement in designing programs is. A South African woman talked about how now women with HIV are forced to stay on treatment and breastfeed with not access at all to formula
milk , and no choices. This means that women are expected to stay at home with their babies and take treatment, and give treatment to their babies to protect them from HIV. If they go to work and haven’t disclosed at home the grand mother or another carer may give formula milk or water to the baby. If babies are mixed fed, the risk of transmission increases: this is because formula milk and even water changes the mucosa of their mouths and makes them more receptive to the little HIV that may still be in the breast milk of a woman on treatment. But what can a poor mother who needs to work for an income do? I had never thought about this, and I bet neither had the policy makers, who probably made their decision more on the bio-medical evidence then using the experiences of women living with HIV in Africa.
Something else that moved me was seeing the memorial AIDS quilt made by people to commemorate people who died of AIDS.