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Michael Harney Reports from International AIDS Conference

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Michael “The Rubberman” Harney (so called for his practice of handing out condoms in Asheville) is WNCAP’s global ambassador. Most recently, Michael attended the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam. Below are excerpt from his two post-Conference reports. Read the complete versions here, originally published on GayAshevilleNC.com.

July 25, 2018: Amsterdam, a city of 900,000 inhabitants, is again host to the International AIDS Conference. There are 15,000 people attending from 160 countries around the globe.

Prior to the opening of the 22nd International AIDS Conference, there were satellite meetings held around the city. The U=U Pre-Conference was one of them. It is a global movement launched by the Prevention Access Campaign and its Executive Director Bruce Richman“U=U” stands for Undetectable=Untransmittable, and the father of the science on which it is based is Dr. Pietro Vernazza, who along with his colleagues recognized this connection over a decade ago and created what is known as the “Swiss Statement”.
The Swiss statement says that HIV-positive people who have been successfully treated are no longer infectious in terms of sexual practice if:
They have had an undetectable viral load for six months or longer
They are undergoing treatment and adhere to it

They have no other STIs
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1994, gave the keynote speech at the pre-conference meeting. He stressed that the PARTNER and HPTN 052 studies, and especially for MSM the Opposites Attract study, have established the science that zero transmissions occur among sexual partners when “U” really does stay Undetectable!
July 27, 2018: A major focus at this conference is on adolescent girls and young women who face great challenges to safe and healthy lives free from violence and risk of HIV. The organization She Decides is “a global movement to promote, provide, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of every girl and woman…to do what she chooses with her body…”. Connect and see what this organization is providing and how to become involved.
Among many women leaders heard at the conference, Reina Buijs, Director General for International Cooperation at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke about the importance of teaching decision making skills and comprehensive sex education to girls and boys, including not only potential physical and emotional risks of sexual activity, but also the pleasure that is possible when it is consensual.
Former United States president Bill Clinton, in his conference address, stressed that there cannot be a “Brexit” on HIV/AIDS funding and attention.
He was interrupted by protesters who shouted their demands: Sex Work Is Work! Decriminalize sex work!; and that as former president he use his power to make the changes necessary to include key populations in all HIV interventions, and that inclusively they be heard; also, that the 2020 International AIDS Conference be moved from San Francisco/Oakland due to the Trump administration’s stance on migrant populations and his relationships to tyrants around the world who criminalize and endanger vulnerable people most affected in this epidemic.
The Rapporteurs are making their end-of-conference presentations, but the work is just beginning for some, and continues for others. In the role as the Rubberman, much work still needs to be done. The basics must continue: condom distribution, needle exchange, comprehensive education, and testing. With your support, involvement, and philanthropy – in all the ways it is given – western North Carolina shall continue to be the model of prevention and care that it is known for.
 – Michael Harney, “The Rubberman”
Author: wncap

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