Before the start of the International AIDS Conference a group of over 450 academics, policy makers, researchers, implementing agencies, activists, and community representatives met in Vienna to discuss the importance of families in the HIV response.
The symposium ‘Family Support First: Working Together to Achieve Universal Support and Access to Treatment’ was organised by the Teresa Group and Coalition for Children Affected by HIV and AIDS (CCABA).
This event has taken place every two years since the Toronto 2006 International AIDS conference in response to the lack of sessions at the IAC focussed on children and their families. A group of concerned individuals who had attended the Bangkok conference in 2004 and witnessed the decorative use of young children at the opening ceremony, but a total absence of children’s issues in the main conference , decided something needed to change.
The symposium event has grown over the last six years to bring together more and more of the key people in the sector, discussing the care, support and protection of children affected by HIV and AIDS. This year the event welcomed the likes of Michel Sidibe UNAIDS, Jimmy Kolker UNICEF, messages from Gracha Machel and a closing speech from Elizabeth Mataka, Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa. Despite this growing international profile for the event you might be surprised to hear that over the 6 years there has still been no significant increase in the inclusion of the issues of children and families into the main conference.
Analysis done by CCABA over the last six years calculated that you were six times more likely to have an abstract accepted for the conference if you did not use the word’ children’ and 11 times more likely to be accepted if you used the word ‘Bill’ as in Clinton or Gates.
Children and their families are critical to the HIV and AIDS response. We cannot eliminate pediatric AIDS without families, we cannot achieve universal access without a focus on families, when is the world going to wake up to this reality and give children and families their rightful place on the agenda?