amfAR at AIDS 2022

At the 24th International AIDS Conference, amfAR supports meaningful involvement and community-led HIV programming research

AIDA 2022

Re-engage and follow the science—the theme of AIDS 2022 aims to re-energize researchers, activists, and policy makers when the 24th International AIDS Conference, organized by the International AIDS Society (IAS), returns to an in-person gathering in Montreal, Canada, July 29August 2. In the spirit of accessibility and safety, the conference will welcome virtual attendees, as well.

Adeeba Kamarulzaman, M.D., IAS President and AIDS 2022 International Co-Chair. Photo courtesy IAS
Adeeba Kamarulzaman, M.D., IAS President and AIDS 2022 International Co-Chair. Photo courtesy IAS

In a recent interview, Adeeba Kamarulzaman, M.D., IAS President and AIDS 2022 International Co-Chair, unpacked what it means to “follow the science”: “The science around HIV and AIDS through the years has been enormously transformative and has given us an array of tools for treatment and prevention. But a lot of the science in the conference is also dedicated to social and behavioral sciences and policy making. This year, ‘follow the science’ is about how to deliver.”

“How to deliver” characterizes many of the AIDS 2022 presentations by researchers from or in partnership with amfAR’s Public Policy Office and TREAT Asia program. The latter has been strengthened by Dr. Kamarulzaman, who is a former chair of the TREAT Asia steering committee and one of the founding investigators of its regional research network.

Dr. Kamarulzaman is Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Malaya, which continues to be one of TREAT Asia’s research network sites and a partner of CHIMERA, a five-year (20192024) HIV, mental health, and implementation science research training program led by TREAT Asia and Columbia University. (Of special note: One of CHIMERA’s mentors and a TREAT Asia network investigator, Dr. Nittaya Phanuphak, was recently re-elected to the IAS governing council.) After AIDS 2022, Dr. Kamarulzaman will be stepping down as IAS president; Dr. Sharon Lewin, a researcher who has also worked extensively with amfAR, will assume the leadership role next.

Here’s a spotlight on some of amfAR’s contributions to AIDS 2022’s invitation to re-engage and follow the science.

Transgender-inclusive services

Transgender people are one of the populations hardest hit by HIV, and yet their full, meaningful involvement in HIV programming has yet to be realized.

Rena Janamnuaysook, program manager, IHRI/founder, Tangerine Community Health Clinic and CHIMERA D43 program fellow
Rena Janamnuaysook, program manager, IHRI/founder, Tangerine Community Health Clinic and CHIMERA D43 program fellow

Rena Janamnuaysook, a TREAT Asia network investigator and one of the notable plenary speakers at AIDS 2022, has worked steadfastly to increase the inclusion of transgender people in HIV programming as a Program Manager for Transgender Health at the Institute of HIV Research and Innovation (HRI) in Bangkok, Thailand. Among her accomplishments, she co-founded the Thai Transgender Alliance, the first transgender-owned human rights organization in Thailand.

Transgender inclusion in HIV programming is also the subject of a study presented by lead author (and AIDS 2022 organizing committee member) Erika Castellanos of GATE (Global Action for Trans Equality) and co-authors Jennifer Sherwood, Ph.D., amfAR’s public policy manager, and Elise Lankiewicz, Ph.D., amfAR’s project coordinator among others.

Based on systematic reviews of HIV National Strategic Plans (NSPs) from 16 high HIV prevalence countries in Eastern and Southern Africa and in-depth interviews with governmental officials and trans organizations in Kenya and Uganda, the study found transgender people were included extremely unevenly across the five main sections of the NSPs. None of the NSPs included transgender people in the sections pertaining to epidemiological data or budgets.

Erika Castellanos, interim executive director/director of programs, GATE (Global Action for Trans Equality)
Erika Castellanos, interim executive director/director of programs, GATE (Global Action for Trans Equality)

The oral presentation, “Missing: Meaningful Trans Inclusion in HIV National Strategic Plans in Eastern and Southern Africa,” will include researchers’ suggestions for increasing meaningful trans inclusions in NSPs for national governments and international funders. It will be complemented by a satellite session organized by GATE and amfAR, “Meaningful Engagement of Trans persons in NSPs,” which will discuss how to increase trans inclusion in national HIV planning processes.

Community-led monitoring

Meaningful involvement is also the aim of HIV-related community-led monitoring (CLM), which aims to strengthen services by placing affected individuals and groups at the forefront of collecting and analyzing programming data and obtaining and contributing input about how services could be improved.

Brian Honermann, amfAR’s Deputy Director of Public Policy, will present an e-poster titled “Data for Action—Developing a Multi-Country CLM Dashboard for Visualization, Reporting, and Program Management.” Honermann will review the lessons learned when amfAR recently partnered with civil society organizations in South Africa, Haiti, Uganda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe to develop a data analysis, visualization, project management, and reporting ecosystem. This dashboard will enable CLM projects to quickly provide feedback on results and advocate for changes and improvements. It will be released as an open-source platform this summer and become freely available to anyone who wants to utilize it.

Rajkumar Nalinikanta, president, CoNE
Rajkumar Nalinikanta, president, CoNE

“Outcomes of community-led HCV and HBV care model in India, including same-day HCV ‘test and treat’ to facilitate micro-elimination” by lead author Rajkumar Nalinikanta, Giten Khwairakpam (amfAR’s TREAT Asia program), and others, also discusses how the successful model might be replicated in other settings to expand HCV and HBV care access. amfAR is the technical service provider to this project on a volunteer basis.

Three e-posters from research partners of amfAR’s Public Policy Office will present data from the Ritshidze Community-led Monitoring Program, launched in South Africa in 2019 to monitor HIV, TB and other health service delivery with the aim of improving primary healthcare services for all people in the country. The data will be utilized in an evaluation of the program itself, an analysis of human rights violations against key populations, and an examination of gaps in implementation of national HIV policies. The Ritshidze Project (“ritshidze” means “saving our lives” in TshiVenda, one of South Africa’s official languages) aims to identify the root causes of why people fall out of care and suffer poor health outcomes as a result by examining what could be improved in healthcare delivery and working toward change.

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