Thursday's Daily Download from IAC
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Daily Download from AIDS2016: Thursday 21 July

Dear friends, we are excited to bring you this daily download from the International AIDS Conference in Durban. Each day we'll share our analysis of the sessions and panels that address women and girls' health and rights throughout the conference, photos and ongoing conversations, and updates from the #WhatWomenWant campaign. 

Hormonal Contraception and HIV: A Review of the Science and Research, and Their Implications for Research, Program and Policy
ATHENA joined a session on Thursday morning that explored interactions between HIV and hormonal contraception. The possibility that some forms of hormonal contraception might increase the risk of acquiring HIV has been an issue for some time, and ATHENA has been highly active in advocacy to demand more and better data to resolve and act on this question. In particular, the possibility raised by some observational studies of a link between injectable contraception in the form of DMPA and increased vulnerability of HIV acquisition is a source of huge concern for women's rights activists given how common DMPA is in countries with high HIV prevalence. The session was therefore an important discussion of the current best available evidence.
Chelsea Polis, Senior Research Scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, presented review evidence suggesting that newer data are "increasingly concerning and converging around" increased risk. There is an urgent need for more data to understand this and for urgent action to respond to it. James Kiarie represented the WHO on the panel. Their response indicated that data limitations were a challenge in giving clear guidance about hormonal contraception and HIV. this underscores the urgent value of the ECHO trial which is seeking to answer these questions. The ECHO Study is an open-label randomised clinical trial that will compare three highly effective, reversible methods of contraception to evaluate whether there is a link between use of any of these methods and increased risk of acquiring HIV infection. A randomised clinical trial among about 7,800 women in four countries, ECHO will deliver evidence to support and guide individual, policy and programmatic decisions on contraception for women at risk of acquiring HIV infection.
Women deserve full information in order to make informed choices. It is past time to answer this question. Alongside ECHO, we need to scale up contraceptive method mix, ensure that all methods are available to women and to work urgently to fund and conduct research to answer biomedical questions about the interactions between HIV risk and hormonal contraception as well as social questions about interactions between contraceptive choices and preferences and HIV vulnerability. Dr. Jared Baeten, professor at the University of Washington and co-chair of the ECHO study, spoke to us about why this research is so necessary.
Concluding the panel, Helen Rees of the University of Witwatersrand asked, “If we’d had this same question about a drug for men for 25 years, would we not have invested and found an answer by now?”


Young People Are the Future: Listening to Young People, Ensuring their Protection and Investing in their Health
This Link Up workshop, co-facilitated by Georgina of the AIDS Alliance, Cedric of RNJ+ in Burundi, and Jacquelyne of UNYPA in Uganda, brought together young people who play different roles in HIV and SRHR programming and advocacy, to provoke self-reflection for all who attend about how to more effectively recognize and practically support the leadership of young people. All of us, in all our diversity and diverse roles as program implementers, policy makers, researchers, community leaders, parents, siblings and more, need to pay attention and listen to the diverse voices of young people. We must ensure that in all the work we do, we are actively engaging young people in assessing, designing, innovating and monitoring programs that are meant for them. The Link Up project also launched a new film highlighting their success in working with young people, Aiming High: Meaningful Youth Engagement.

#WhatWomenWant – Young Women’s Leadership Initiative Dialogue on Multiple Prevention Technologies
ATHENA facilitated an informal dialogue on young women's HIV prevention needs in the Exhibition Hall on Thursday morning at the Initiative for Multi-Purpose Prevention Technologies' booth. Young women held a Q&A session with experts on the various prevention technologies currently available, including vaginal rings, PrEP, and other tools. Questions around how long the ring can stay inside the body, how it works, what the best approach is for women living with HIV and their partners, and microbicide gels in the pipeline filled the hour in a lively dialogue. 
"As women we need more options than just condoms. It's hard to negotiate safe sex. Women are more infected by HIV. Women need contraceptives. If we can get one product that serves multiple purposes, women can plan better and do more for themselves." - Everlyne Ombati, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)

March Against the Forced & Coerced Sterilization of Women Living with HIV

Thursday morning the International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa organized a march where hundreds of advocates walked the streets of Durban, calling for an end to SRHR violations, especially the forced and coerced sterilization of women living with HIV. This practice violates women’s human rights to have control over their bodies, and ATHENA has worked to bring attention to this issue by documenting the practice for years. To support continued research and advocacy efforts, ICWEA also launched My Fertility, My Choices, My Rules, a toolkit on research on SRHR violations in clinical and community settings.  

Girls and HIV: What We Know, What We Don't Know and What We Need to Do to Reach 10- to 19-year-olds

This evening session was co-sponsored by the Link Up project, of which ATHENA is a global policy partner, and the DREAMS consortium to discuss the challenges and strategies for gathering evidence and designing programs to meet the unique needs of 10-19 year olds. The HIV epidemic disproportionately impacts adolescent girls and young women in many parts of the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, and understanding the vulnerabilities and lived realities that put adolescent girls at risk is key to reversing very high rates of HIV infection. Panelists from Population Council, UNYPA, the International AIDS Alliance, Marie Stopes International, UNICEF, and Columbia University discussed the importance of expanding the evidence base of policies and programs that are most effective in reaching adolescent girls, and shared strategies and successes in meaningfully involving young women in the design and implementation of interventions. Read the Twitter Storify summary of the event for more information.  

#WhatWomenWant from #AIDS2016

The #WhatWomenWant campaign has taken off at the International AIDS conference! #WhatWomenWant champions are working the Global Village handing out campaign stickers and taking photos, we are live tweeting key sessions and pushing out the message.  Join us by tweeting your reflections and key priorities for women throughout the conference using the hashtag #WhatWomenWant, or find us on Facebook. Today we've launched another blog on the Young Feminist Blog Series by Shirin Choudhary, don't miss it! Since the start of AIDS2016's pre-conferences, the #WhatWomenWant hashtag has been used over 1,500 times and has reached 3.5 million Twitter accounts with messages for and by women to ensure that world leaders hear our voices, know our solutions, and act on our priorities. Find us in the WNZ (booth 620) to join the movement today!

Voices of Young Women Leaders

The Young Women's Leadership Initiative has been an interactive hub of sharing, reflection, and analysis throughout the conference, held daily in the Women's Networking Zone with Access Chapter 2. We've been inspired each day by the tireless advocacy and hard work of each young woman, and look forward to continuing to expand this community!

Beyond blame conference is what has stood out for me this week. It showed how professionals' lives were changed by HIV. The same communities that they dedicated their lives to, shunned them and shut them out. I was hurt. It made me realize that it is time for a radical approach. No matter what, as human beings, we must speak up against social injustice. -Eunice Hehguva, Namibia
"We need parents to call a spade a spade. We don’t want people to just go to the Global Village, you need to come to our villages. Young people must be included to make progress. We are the leaders. The teachers are not reaching out to us." -Nthabiseng Modeyela, South Africa

"When young people know about their bodies and SRHR it improves our health. The government and religious groups prevent this Information from being shared" -Young woman leader, Uganda

"We are not the leaders of tomorrow, we are the leaders of today and we have started leading. Young women need to learn how to match their skills with the activism."Lerato Morulane,South Africa
"It's my right to know what is happening in the high level places and to get learn how the systems works from the top down to the community. It allows me to inform other young people. I am learning about issues like PrEP and prevention strategies for adolescent girls and young women. It allows all young people attending to better answer questions in our countries. Imagine if I had not come when I am the only person from my organization." -Catherine Nakidde  Uganda 

Friday's Schedule:
08:45-10:50, Session Room 1
How Do We Get There?
Join the conversation on Twitter: #WhatWomenWant @NetworkATHENA @PEPFAR @LzLoures @UNAIDS @UNICEF @HealthZA @CarlosdelRio7 #AIDS2016

11:00-12:30, Women's Networking Zone
Let’s Talk About it at the Zone: Young Women’s Leadership Initiative Briefing
Join the conversation on Twitter: #WhatWomenWant @NetworkATHENA #WNZ2016 #AIDS2016 #womensrights #YWLHIV

13:00-14:00, Session Room 1
From Commitments to Action: Implications of the 2016 High Level Meeting on AIDS
Join the conversation on Twitter: #WhatWomenWant @NetworkATHENA @ZambiaUN @JanMBeagle @UNAIDS @HealthZA @theaidsalliance #AIDS2016

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