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The Elton John AIDS Foundation at the 2018 International AIDS Conference

20 August 2018

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The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) and a number of our grantees were on the ground at the 2018 International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam. From sharing powerful stories about stigma and discrimination to presenting cutting-edge research confirming the effectiveness of U=U EJAF’s presence was felt from the opening pre-conference to the closing speeches.

At the conference’s Opening Plenary, our founder Elton John was joined on stage by HRH Duke of Sussex and Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of international human rights icon Nelson Mandela, to unveil a new billion-dollar initiative called MenStar– a new global coalition focused on testing and treating HIV infections in men as a key strategy to breaking the cycle of HIV transmission and achieving an AIDS-free generation. Elton also met with the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Gakuo Kenyatta, to discuss the implementation of one of the MenStar Coalition’s first initiatives: an HIV self-testing campaign aimed at young men in Kenya.

“Two years ago, at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa HRH the Duke of Sussex and I participated in a panel looking at HIV and youth – the only age demographic where HIV infections are rising not falling” commented Elton. “Since then, my Foundation, along with other partners, have been undertaking participatory, human-centered design research collectively covering six countries. A critical finding from this work is the urgent need to rapidly scale up men’s access to and engagement in HIV testing and treatment services.”

Next up in an action-packed day was a press conference to announce new partners of EJAF’s Eastern Europe & Central Asia Key Populations Fund. Launched in October 2017, this program provides instrumental support to the key organizations working to ensure that the 1.5 million people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have access to lifesaving healthcare – and especially necessary given that over 96% of the people living with HIV in this region face constant stigma, discrimination and obstacles to accessing critical care.

EJAF also presented the achievements of the LGBT Fund, a $10 million effort jointly financed by EJAF and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Since 2015, this Fund has supported LGBT communities in multiple African countries. As part of this work, the lifesaving Rapid Response Fund, managed by the International AIDS Alliance, offers grants to help LGBT-led civil society organizations adapt to unexpected events that impact the ability of LGBT people to access HIV services.

The day concluded with a panel discussion featuring powerful images and videos by the photojournalist Robin Hammond, and included firsthand experiences shared by EJAF grantees on the frontlines of combatting stigma in their communities. The panel included Elton and Mark Dybul, Co-Director of the Center for Global Health and Quality and Professor in the Department of Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, and was moderated by Erika Castellanos, Director of Programs for Global Action for Trans Equality.

The Foundation continued its tradition of supporting pre-conference activities. This year, EJAF played a role in events including WomenNow! 2018, an opportunity to address key concerns for the equity of women and girls in HIV; TRANS Action, a forum and platform for universally advancing the health and safety of trans people; and U=U (Undetectable=Untransmissible), the campaign to put an end to misinformation and liberate people receiving effective HIV treatment from the stigma and fear of passing HIV to sexual partners.

The Foundation also participated, supported or showcased its work in the following:

  • On Monday, July 23, EJAF-UK Executive Director Anne Aslett chaired a session at the Gilead symposium entitled “Together we can stop the Virus,” focusing on the needs of key populations;
  • • On Saturday, July 21, EJAF-UK Grants Director Mohamed Osman chaired a session reviewing strategy for improving HIV testing for Men at the PEPFAR partners meeting;
  • • On Sunday, July 22, Mohamed Osman delivered a presentation at the Changing the game in adolescent-centred design: Assets, access, adherence; he was also a panelist at C3 Collaborathon: Collaborating to drive extraordinary and sustainable results
  • • On Tuesday, July 24, Mohamed led two non-commercial satellite sessions: Where Are All the Men: Ensuring Access to HIV Testing and Treatment Services and A Brave New World: Understanding Users to Maximize the Impact of HIV Self-Testing.
  • • Additionally, EJAF sponsored the Lancet Commission on the Future of Global Health and the HIV Response, and EJAF partners presented at the following sessions throughout the conference:
    • • Diagnose, treat, innovate: A paradigm shift for ending pediatric AIDS
    • • HIV and Migration within a fast track agenda
    • • Intersectional Stigma: Measurement and Interventions Strategies to Address Multiple Intersecting Stigmas that Potentiate HIV Risks and Limit Engagement in Care
    • • Getting PrEP to where it’s needed most: A global conversation led by African men who have sex with men (MSM)
    • • Parliamentarians leading the fight against AIDS

“The International AIDS Conference offers an opportunity to come together and get smarter in the effort to end HIV/AIDS,” said EJAF Chairman David Furnish. “We’re doing our part to focus attention where it’s needed most: breaking down the barriers keeping key populations around the world from lifesaving treatment. Elton and I are proud to be able to join the community of people living with HIV/AIDS, activists, global health specialists, NGOs, and policy makers in Amsterdam for AIDS 2018. With almost a third of people infected with HIV globally still not aware of their status or accessing treatment, we must maintain a real sense of collective urgency to get us to an AIDS-free future.”