Preparing for the International AIDS Conference

Focusing on Community Investments


“If I had one message for global decision makers, it would be that communities need to be empowered to take care of their children. This requires funding to be spent differently than it is now. No policy maker, no researcher, no doctor is caring for the children affected by HIV 24 hours a day. It is caregivers and the community that take care of these children, and they should be empowered with the knowledge, the skills, and the means to do so.”

Doortje ‘t Hart, Senior advisor Children affected by AIDS at Aidsfonds and Member of the Coalition for Children affected by AIDS since 2010. Hear more in this Coalition video

The International AIDS Conference takes place every two years and attracts 15 – 20,000 people from all over the world. This year the conference will be held in Amsterdam, where Aidsfonds is based, from 23-27 July 2018. My organization sees this as a great opportunity to showcase our work AND to advocate for our key message – End AIDS: invest in communities now!

We believe that the only way to end AIDS is to put communities in the driving seat. The focus of our work is, therefore, on investing in communities, in creating linkages between communities and health providers (and broader development sectors), and in empowering community representatives to be heard in the policy processes that affect them.

Not only is AIDS 2018 taking place in our city, but AIDSfonds’ director, Louise van Deth is the co-chair of the Community and Leadership Programme Committee. As a result, we have more involvement and influence in the conference planning than other years, giving us the opportunity to secure and organise several non-abstract driven sessions.

Children are one of Aidsfonds’ focal target groups; in fact, our work with children is being expanded as we speak. Therefore, it is an ideal opportunity to organize the interactive symposium on children and HIV, entitled ‘Prioritized, yet dying: addressing the needs of children and adolescents living with HIV’. This discussion will map the journey of an individual child as he or she grows into adolescence. The audience will hear different voices and perspectives from an adolescent, a mother, a health provider, a researcher and a policymaker on the key issues, needs and effective solutions to ensuring that children and adolescents receive the care and support they need.

As a long-time member, Aidsfonds was eager to work closely together with the Coalition to shape the event. Coalition member, Lucie Cluver is chairing the session and Ambassador, Clara Banya will share the perspective of children and mothers. I am extremely proud of my colleague, Sabrina Erné, who has worked very hard on this session.

For Aidsfonds, it is really important that communities are not only given a platform to speak, but are also empowered to take the lead on projects and policy formulation that affects them. This means that, as donors we need to do more than fund projects FOR them. We need to invest in communities, ensure that funding is going directly to community-led organisations, train them in voicing their needs at all policy levels, and listen to their needs and respond accordingly.

Hence our slogan for the conference End Aids: invest in communities now!

If we relate this back to the Coalition’s mission, this means that we need to listen to children’s needs, empower caregivers to speak on behalf of young children and older youth to speak up for themselves, and enhance organisations that work directly with HIV-affected children. This is what Aidsfonds does, through programs, such as Towards an AIDS free generation in Uganda (TAFU), and by ensuring that we bring the message of children and their caretakers to policy makers at all levels. In this process, we make use of conferences as an avenue to reach policy makers, implementers and funders from around the world.

For the AIDS 2018 conference we have submitted 74 abstracts (including proposals for the Global Village), have secured five satellite sessions, and are organising several side-events. I hope you will join us in one of our events/sessions and visit us in the Global Village!