I’ve recently returned from my fourth AIDS Conference. The most recent gathering was held in Melbourne, Australia, where approximately 12,000 researchers, academics, advocates, pharmacists, policy-makers, and patients got together to discuss the progress made and identify challenges ahead for the cure of AIDS, support for patients, and effective government policies to address these issues. Colleagues who were killed in the Malaysian flight MH17, including leading HIV Researcher Joep Lang, were on the mind of all conference attendees.

The 20th Annual AIDS Conference held in Melbourne, Australia

I am always amazed by the vibe that embodies this conference, the opportunity to learn and network with activists from across the globe. I attended the conference in order to host video advocacy trainings. In Melbourne I conducted two trainings aimed mostly at sex workers and LGBTI activists.

Two resources I relied heavily on during the trainings, which reached 53 activists directly, were our Conducting Safe, Effective and Ethical Interviews with Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and our tip sheet How To Film with a Cellphone.

“The practice and the information were hands-on and very applicable in the kind of work I do in my organization; I didn’t know until today that [using video] was quite simple and really useful,” said training participant Tebogo Mokganyetji from South Africa.

I also met many activists working on documenting sexual violence against women and girls. An inspiring example came from India’s HLFPPT (Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust), an organization that supports 33 community-based organizations (CBO) of sex workers in India. HLFPPT’s Dr. Anasua Bagchi, she finds the GBV Guide a useful resource in their monitoring and documentation of violence against sex workers who are supported by her organization. Her organization will work to translate the Guide into local languages helping to further the reach of this advocacy tool.

Dr. Bagchi described some of the specific issue facing the 30,000 Indian sex workers, that are part of the community-based organizations, her organization works with in this video interview she did with me at the conference:

While AIDS2014 offered much hope, one area that was noted as lagging was the eradication of stigma and discrimination for those affected by HIV/AIDS. There is a need for more education and information, at both the community and decision-maker levels, to ensure that individuals’ rights are fully protected at all levels.

Despite ongoing challenges for and violence against sex workers and LGBTI communities in countries such as India and Uganda, activists are “stepping up the pace” to document these abuses and prevent them. I believe that the more these stories are recorded and shared, the more the more the rights of every person can be recognized and protected at all levels.

Featured image is of Dr. Anasua Bagchi of the Indian organization HLFPPT. All photos courtesy Bukeni Waruzi.

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