Exploring combination prevention: the way forward
23 July 2010
For every two people who start on HIV treatment, five are newly infected. With the need to focus on HIV prevention becoming ever more acute, how can those at risk of contracting HIV be targeted to produce impact? What can we scale up? How to bring coordination in interventions that complement each other? These are some of the key questions explored in a UNAIDS Satellite Session at the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
Entitled Combination prevention in action: targeted approaches, the session highlighted the need to address prevention in a range of key populations, including sex workers and their clients, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, populations in humanitarian crisis, and migrants.
Representatives from the UN system and civil society emphasised the importance of coordinated HIV prevention efforts and addressing gaps in the AIDS response at a country, regional and global level. They shared experiences and built on lessons learned in dealing with HIV in specific populations, discussing the opportunities and challenges of combination prevention.
Opening the discussions, Ms Purnima Mane, UNFPA’s Deputy Executive Director, explained that UNAIDS advocates a combination approach to HIV prevention which takes into account the realities of local epidemics. Combination prevention requires action on both immediate personal risks and on the underlying drivers of the epidemic. It means a multi-pronged strategy providing services and programmes for individuals as well as investment in structural interventions, such as legal reforms to outlaw discrimination against people living with HIV.
Chaired by Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, Director of UNAIDS Department of Evidence, Strategy and Results, the session attracted a broad range of speakers. These included Signe Rotberga, a UNODC Regional Project Coordinator who shared lessons about AIDS prevention and care among injecting drug users and in prison settings in the Baltic states.
HIV and sex work in humanitarian settings was the subject of the contribution from UNHCR’s Dr.Patterson Njogu, Senior Regional Global HIV/AIDS Coordinator for East and Horn of Africa. ILO’s Richard Howard, HIV/AIDS Regional Specialist for Asia and the Pacific, spoke about reaching sex workers clients through workplace interventions. Ying-Ru Lo from WHO explained ongoing processes for the development of global guidance tools on prevention and treatment of HIV among most at risk populations.
Ruth Morgan Thomas for the Global Coordinator for the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and Shona Schonning from the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN) gave insightful perspective of civil society on the different interventions.
Coming from myriad countries and settings, the participants shared a common goal: to reinforce the importance of targeted combination prevention that addresses the needs of the individual and promotes the creation of a safe and supportive environment based on human rights, protection and reduction of vulnerability.