To view an epidemic through the eyes of every facet of these diseases is a life changing opportunity. Sitting in the AIDS 2012 Media Centre, keeping good company with some of the best journalists in the world, I reflected on the knowledge I gained during my days as a volunteer and attendee of the conference.
My key takeaway has to be the overarching theme of collaboration.
As every successful communications professional should, I understand the importance of knowing your audience and utilizing collaborative efforts to problem solve. During the conference, I met researchers, scientists and policy wonks who could not agree more.
In the session Africa-India HIV Learning Exchange: Approaches To Achieving Scale, I learned that although many populations are not involved in collaborative efforts, India, Ghana and Nigeria are contributing to worldwide cooperation to share information about the impact AIDS has on various populations.
India has seen progress in identifying and educating their most-at-risk populations (MARPs) and has invited other nations to India to learn from their findings. Richard Amenyah MD, MPH from Ghana shared his experience in visiting India and highlighted the areas in India’s HIV/AIDS strategy that he brought home to adopt in Ghana.
John Idoko M.D., Director-General of Nigeria’s National Agency for Control of AIDS, had a different approach. He remarked on the need to recognize different MARPs within countries where the epidemic has spread, apart from the common categories of men who have sex with men (MSM) and female sex-workers (FSW). What I gathered from his analysis was that there is not a “standard” process that can be used for all audiences within a country, let alone meet diverse global needs. Throwing an even larger wrench into the mix, he remarked that curing HIV/AIDS is not all about communicating behavioral change.
This comment took me aback. After all, communicating and addressing behavioral change is something that I do daily. When Dr. Idoko elaborated on his statement, he gave an aggressive stance in not only targeting MSM and FSW, but also targeting high-risk groups like traveling salesmen and transport workers. He then called for geographic prioritization and a decentralized HIV response.
Dr. Idoko then advocated for South-to-South collaboration to further the advances against HIV/AIDS. He mentioned that with collaboration, we can “sustain capacity building and nurturing/mentoring of systems adapted from South-to-South cooperation.”
So, at the AIDS2012 conference, people are collaborating. With the global south and global north collaborating all in one space, how far does this reach now that everyone is back home? Will we have to wait two MORE years before we fortify collaboration efforts?