Protesters take to the stage at AIDS 2022 calling for more action

World AIDS

Peaceful protesters have interrupted the opening of AIDS 2022, the 24th World Internationals AIDS Conference which is being held in simultaneously in Montreal and online.

Holding placards with messages including “Wake Up, Times Up”, “Wake Up! People are dying” and “The AIDS crisis is not over” dozens of conference participants took to the stage calling for greater action, and removal of the barriers that stop progress in the global fight against HIV.

The conference has a long history of ‘planned-impromptu’ performances occurring throughout the conferences key events, but protestors who took to the stage ahead of an address from Executive Director Winnie Byanyima got a huge response from the audience in the auditorium.

Taking to the microphone one of the protesters spoke about their alarm at the most recent report from UNAIDS which has highlighted that the global battle to tackle HIV transmissions and deaths is faltering.

They called for more action on the opportunistic infections that often cause death in people living with HIV who are unable to access effective treatment including tuberculosis and cryptococcal meningitis.

“The number one killer of people living with HIV remains T.B, what are we going to do in this conference? The number two killer of people living with HIV is an invisible, painful, way of dying it’s called cryptococcal meningitis, yet many of our countries do very little to stop those preventable and treatable deaths.

“We need political will to end deaths today, we need data to end deaths today, we need the invisibility of people who are dying painful deaths – who we do not see here – to end today.” the protesters said, calling for access to vaccines and treatments.

World AIDS

Increased funding for the dapivirine vaginal ring (DPV-VR) was one oft he protestors demands, as people stood on stage holding up large white rings.

In 2021 the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave the green light for the preventative device to be offered as an additional prevention choice for women at substantial risk of HIV infection as part of combination prevention approaches.

The DPV-VR is a female-initiated option to reduce the risk of HIV infection. To properly use the ring, it must be worn inside the vagina for a period of 28 days, after which it should be replaced by a new ring.

The ring is made of silicone and is easy to bend and insert. The ring works by releasing the antiretroviral drug dapivirine from the ring into the vagina slowly over 28 days.

“Fund the ring now.” the speaker shouted, gaining a lot of applause from the audience.

As the protestors delivered their message a statement from conference organisers was broadcast into the auditorium stating that they welcomed peaceful protest as “fundamental for the HIV response”

When host Omar Sharif Jnr returned to the stage he praised the protestors for their comments saying “I so love and respect our community of protestors.” encouraging the audience to applaud the protestors stance.

“Our community has been founded on a history of protest, on a history of fighting, for far too long we had to yell to be seen, and we had to yell so we could live.” Sharif said before returning to the scheduled program.

Graeme Watson 


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