Trans action

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24 Jul 2018

MONDAY 23 JULY 2018

Over 15,000 people are gathering in Amsterdam for the 22nd International AIDS Conference. Although the opening ceremony is not until this evening the work is well underway with pre conferences, satellite sessions and industry meetings.

I have had the immense privilege of being part of the Trans action safety pre-conference. There are lots of signs that we have a long way to go but can rightly celebrate the journey so far. To hear that several women who had scholarships to attend the conference were refused visas was a sobering reminder of the daily struggles of the trans and gender diverse communities, struggles of such significance that we cannot dislocate them from a HIV response. 

A strong and persistent message calling for the meaningful involvement of the trans and gender diverse communities in a HIV response with concrete examples of how this truly works was a delight to experience, but the most delightful of all was the emergence of the transman voice into the forum. I have been involved in the HIV response for all of the decades and it never fails to move me when I see and hear the lived experience stepping boldly forward to be heard. I am both humbled and uplifted by the experience. 

I heard — grassroots connections are essential to an effective community response — that the World Health Organisation has HIV guidelines for TGD communities but they are not universally known; the meaningful involvement of affected communities in all of their diversities is essential; and the idea that communities are 'hard to reach' is a fallacy and what it really means is that there are strategies lacking to engage marginalised groups. Most of all though, I heard about the danger of invisibility, especially in the data. A call to action, to leave no-one behind we must first of all include them.

BILL PATERSON