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  • We Can End AIDS!!!

    We at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) are very excited for tomorrow's We Can End AIDS March in Washington, DC! AMSA will be joining thousands of other marchers and asking for "accountability from Big Pharma and government officials around the world."

    What does this mean?

    We want our governments to put patients ahead of pharmaceutical profits. Instead of being influenced by Big Pharma to create trade policies and legislation that enables access to affordable medicines rather than expensive, brand name alternatives. Only 7.4 million of the 34 million infected with HIV worldwide are currently receiving ARVs. We know thanks to the NIH funded HPTN052 study that treatment is prevention. We need our policymakers take this science and put this into practice through laws that allow for patients worldwide to have access to cheaper generics.

    To find out more or join us in DC tomorrow -

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  • The International AIDS Conference....the Missing Link

    By Marce Abare

    I’m from rural New England. My childhood house was actually inside a cow pasture. Looking for a ticket out, the appeal of going to college was primarily the chance to see new places. Initially it was through travel that I began to appreciate the rawness, both beautiful and ill, that determine the environments in which we live.

    I had the opportunity to work at a pediatric hospital in South Africa in 2002. It was a place where antiretroviral drugs weren’t available to average citizens unless they could enroll in a research study. While witnessing HIV-positive infants and toddlers die needlessly for lack of medicine, I realized that there are specific reasons why people facing the same circumstances – in this case HIV infection – can and should be expected to undergo completely different outcomes based on where they live, the color of their skin, how much money and social capital can be called upon for help. Maybe it was easier for me to see the stark contrast created by injustice while traveling, but upon returning home to North Carolina, where there were hundreds of North Carolinians on waiting lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, I started wondering how different these places really are. Between Durban and Durham, what seemed the greatest distinctions were the nature of public rhetoric and the scale and visibility of a problem; of course the roots of social injustice were the same.

    Looking back to a decade ago, I left South Africa brimming with new knowledge but without tools to act.
    The 2004 International AIDS Conference (IAC) filled in this missing link. I traveled to Bangkok and found myself in the midst of a powerful, well-versed and goal-focused community of Thai people living with HIV, drug users, sex workers and allies from around the world standing together, that I understood the spectrum of avenues of engagement through which each of us can play a role that makes a difference. 

    Whether it’s learning to use media to raise public awareness of industry tactics to generate profit in contrast with access shortfalls, understanding proceedings in which trade policies are determined, or shaping legislative or regulatory decisions that must be reoriented to a public health paradigm—the world’s best minds in activism gather at the IAC every year.

    I am particularly proud to be an AMSA member this year, when for the first time in more than two decades, thanks to President Obama’s leadership in lifting in the ban on entry for those living with HIV, the IAC will be held on U.S. soil.

    I urge you to attend. Health professional students will be marching alongside the world in Washington, D.C. Our message is simple: make access to treatment and prevention universal; address the lack of adequate housing, education, income opportunities and food security; reverse discriminatory policies that reinforce marginalization and fuel the spread of HIV.

    This is a once in a lifetime opportunity - join us!!

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  • Attending the International AIDS Conference

    By Andrea Knittel
    MD/PhD Candidate
    University of Michigan Medical School
    University of Michigan School of Public Health

    President Bill ClintonIf you have ever attended an International AIDS Conference, you know how gigantic they are. Whether you were there as an activist, an implementer of public health programs, a social science researcher, a clinical investigator, or a basic scientist, you were probably overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it all. AIDS 2010 in Vienna, Austria was my first experience, and it was incredible. According to the conference blog, there were over 19,000 people participating this year! Some of the highlights for me included:

    • Meeting other conference attendees in my hostel in Vienna and getting the chance to hear about social work with drug users in Taiwan and condom use in Kenya (their respective areas of expertise)
    • Conference sessions, posters, and satellite sessions (early morning and late evening sessions organized by outside groups, but vetted by the conference for relevance) about my particular area of interest, HIV and the criminal justice system (materials for these and other sessions are available here)
    • Speeches from Deputy President of South Africa, Kgalema Molanthe, Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Bill Gates (check out available webcasts of all of these here)
    • Bill Gates answering the question I had submitted during the Q&A session following his talk
    • Impassioned speeches, moving protests, and incredible advocacy from the individuals and organizations participating in the Global Village – the part of the conference devoted to connecting HIV/AIDS advocates from around the globe (many of these are also available as webcasts)

    Overall it was an amazing chance to see everything that’s developing in HIV/AIDS research in a concentrated setting. I got to hear about the CAPRISA 004 tenofovir microbicide gel trial results, and also participated in an inspiring march for human rights through the old city in Vienna. Though it initially seemed odd to try to mix advocacy, science, and program implementation into a single conference, I think I’m convinced that it creates a dynamic and exciting environment in which to learn. 

    Leave a comment about your AIDS2010 experiences!

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