What is the goal of #AIDS2020ForAll?
#AIDS2020ForAll is a movement of advocates and networks working in the US and globally to ensure that the next International AIDS Conference (IAC) is accessible to those who want to come and most need to be there — especially the communities most impacted by the global epidemic.
Why does #AIDS2020ForAll want the 2020 International AIDS Conference moved out of the US?
Access and Safety. We are concerned that travel restrictions on sex workers and people who use drugs, the ban on people from majority Muslim countries, increased policing and criminalization of immigrant communities, combined with violent political and vigilante targeting of those communities most affected by HIV (LGBTQ communities and people of color) in the US under the Trump regime make the United States a dangerous and inaccessible choice for the global HIV community. We are also gravely concerned that the political and cultural environment in the US is likely to worsen over the next two years. It is not out of the question that it could become even more difficult for people living with HIV and communities disproportionately impacted by the epidemic to enter the country. The US recently hosted the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women; many women from African countries were denied entry visas for this global gathering.
Equity. The US just hosted the International AIDS Conference in 2012. This is a global convening, which is supposed to rotate to various parts of the world, to shine a spotlight on regional issues and to increase access for and relevance for various regions. Hosting the conference in the US again so soon privileges access for US-based advocates and demonstrates a lack of accountability to our global community. Further, out of the last five International AIDS Conferences, four were in the Global North (Vienna, Washington, DC, Melbourne, and Amsterdam), with only one (2016) held in the Global South – in Durban, South Africa. Given what we know about the burden of the global epidemic, this seems strange, to put it nicely.
Why not use AIDS2020 as an opportunity to protest the Trump administration’s lack of support for PLWHIV?
We can decry the lack of support with or without a conference. The very act of moving the conference could be a great opportunity to shine a media spotlight on the administration’s failure to address the HIV epidemic. Our experience of hosting past conferences in the US shows that there is little return on investment, in terms of elevating political will. When the US hosted the 2012 International AIDS Conference, many thought it would be a time to advance progressive HIV policies and to elevate political will on the HIV epidemic – especially because the Obama administration was already very committed to addressing the HIV epidemic domestically and globally. Despite that commitment, advocates were unable to leverage any real additional political will – for example new Congressional champions on HIV, or new HIV policies or funding – as a result of the conference. Although tremendous effort was made by advocates working with the administration to address some existing travel bans, it proved impossible to lift the travel bans on sex workers and people who use drugs for that conference, with the result that the global network of sex work projects (NSWP) ended up hosting an alternative convening in Kolkata, India, because they could not enter the US.
Doesn’t having AIDS2020 in the US highlight the epidemic in the states? That’s a good thing right?
US advocates will have many opportunities to highlight the domestic epidemic during 2020 – it’s a major election year. That means at the local, state and federal level, we can be engaging with candidates directly throughout primary and general election season to demand their commitments on HIV issues. And if the past months of this administration are any indication, we will continue to see attacks to health care, LGBTQ communities, sex education programs, immigratants, reproductive rights, Medicaid, the broader social safety net, and funding for HIV services – all of which create numerous opportunities to raise HIV issues over the next two years. US advocates can ask ourselves: is it the best use of our time to organize a conference or to save Medicaid and other lifesaving programs?
It’s also important to point out that many of us were directly involved in organizing for the 2012 IAC in Washington, DC and experienced the consequences: resources and attention were drained away from critical year-round community organizing and advocacy to instead fight for adequate representation of Black and brown people, women, transgender people, sex workers, and other consistently under-represented communities and issues at the conference itself. Many funders chose to fund conference participation instead of the work HIV advocates do every day. Can we afford this right now? US advocates can and ought to ask themselves what they think is the best use of their own time and resources, given the multiple urgent competing demands we are experiencing in this political moment.
I live in the US. San Francisco/Oakland being the host city means it’s cheaper for me to attend. Why should I want it moved?
The greatest burden of the US epidemic is in the Southern states. If you live in the US but outside the Bay Area, you may be in for quite a shock when looking at the total cost to attend the conference. As a point of reference, the registration cost for people from the U.S. to attend AIDS 2018 in Amsterdam ranges from $500 USD for low income countries to $1200 USD for high income countries such as the US; the cost is likely to be higher in 2020 and that’s just to enter the conference! The registration fee does not include travel or accommodations. The majority of people living with HIV in the U.S. are on a fixed income and the registration fee alone may represent more than a month of income. Few scholarships are available. There are serious housing crises in both San Francisco and Oakland – which are only predicted to get worse in the next two years. Both San Francisco and Oakland are in the list of the top 10 most expensive cities in the United States. Consequently, there are almost no hotel rooms available for under $200 per night in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. We invite you to do your own research on the cost of hotel rooms in the Bay Area online.
AIDS2020 is only 2 years away, is there even time to get the event moved?
There is still ample time to mobilize a new bid and to identify a new venue for the 2020 conference. The 2003 International AIDS Conference, which was supposed to be held in Boston, was moved in less than a year due to the (at that time) restrictions on people living with HIV entering the United States. The IAS has explained that they began soliciting bids for AIDS2020 more than 18 months ago, in a very different political climate. Given the current political context, especially as it relates to immigration in the U.S. and the changing housing and economic landscape in the Bay Area, it makes perfect sense that IAS would reconsider this decision now. IAS still has two years to find and announce an alternative venue for the 2020 conference. This should be more than enough time, and many civil society organizations have already committed to work in partnership with IAS to identify an alternative location.
Is the opposition to AIDS 2020 in the US simply about partisan politics?
Absolutely not. There are times when it makes sense to host a public event, such as an international conference as a strategy to elevate political pressure on an issue. In this case, as described above, our concerns are largely about access, safety, and equity.
What if IAS chooses another U.S. location other than San Francisco/Oakland? Is this a win?
Given the current political climate, many domestic US HIV advocates are laser-focused on three primary things between now and 2020: i) resisting regressive federal and state policy changes and minimizing the harm from those to our communities; ii) advancing state-level progressive policies; and iii) organizing to ensure that the outcomes of the 2018 and 2020 elections create a more favorable political climate for LGBTQ people, sex workers, people who use drugs, and people from majority Black and brown countries to enter the US. The International AIDS Conference should consider returning to the US at a later time, after our next presidential election. At that time, the conference would be better held in the US South.
What if IAS doesn’t change the location?
Some organizations and networks will refuse to participate in a US-based International AIDS Conference in 2020. Alternate gatherings are already being planned in July 2020; some outside the US and others in the US.
How do I support #AIDS2020ForALL?
Join the #AIDS2020ForAll movement by pledging your support at http://bit.ly/AIDS2020SignOn
Then tweet the sign-on link using the hashtags #AIDS2020ForAll #AIDS2018