I am a young African woman who strongly believes that a world where young women and girls have control over their sexual health is possible. I have quite a lot of expectations for the upcoming International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam. These conferences are for me always a good time to reconnect with amazing fellow advocates from across the globe, networking and meeting new people, learning and sharing experiences. It is also a time to reflect on the progress made by the global HIV response. I will be speaking at a few sessions, but the big one for me is the HIV prevention leadership session organized by the Global HIV prevention secretariat where I will be sharing my experience and feedback on how civil and community organisations in Malawi have been part of the HIV prevention coalition.
I am also a mentor, a strong and passionate advocate for women-controlled HIV prevention options and a champion for young women’s health and rights. As someone who comes from a society where young women and girls are continuously being subjected to gender-based violence and other harmful practices rooted in old-fashioned social and cultural norms that reduce women’s ability to negotiate for safe sex and puts women at risk of HIV infections, I believe that women need to have access to HIV prevention options that suit their needs. This calls for increased investment in HIV prevention research focusing on women-controlled tools.
As I work on these issues both as a civil society advocate and as a board member of the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), I see opportunities at the conference for me to speak for millions of my sisters and to urge IPM and other research organizations to continue to search for novel, more user-friendly and effective HIV prevention tools for women. I understand that the conference will see the launch of a number of policies and reports, and the release of new data from studies across the HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment spectrum. There are a number of sessions which I intend to attend – among them is a session on new HIV treatment drugs, the UNAIDS state of the epidemic report launch, a discussion on HIV prevention including microbicides and many more.
Being my first time in Amsterdam, I’m looking forward to learning more about the culture in Holland, absorb the vibe along its pretty water canals, and hopefully get a bite of the famous Dutch cheese!