International call to action reaches Red Deer

  • Aug. 6, 2014 3:48 p.m.

The 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), the world’s largest HIV and AIDS conference, took place in Melbourne, Australia from July 20-25th.

The conference takes place every other year in a different location around the world, with the 2016 21st International AIDS Conference scheduled for Durbin, South Africa.

Executive Director for the Central Alberta AIDS Network Society (CAANS), Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, explained how each conference includes the signing of a different declaration.

AIDS 2010 hosted by Vienna asked attendees to sign the Vienna Declaration. The conference featured a theme of ‘Knowledge and Commitment for Action’ with an emphasis on the need for the general community to commit to use the knowledge gained through science and experience to take action.

Vanderschaeghe has signed the last three declarations on behalf of herself and CAANS with the City of Red Deer having also committed to sign the Vienna Declaration in 2010.

The City was the fourth in Canada to sign the declaration after Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. It focused largely on providing a health-based approach to addiction, as opposed to criminal action.

Around the same time as the signing of the declaration, City council also endorsed the development of a specific drug strategy in the City that focuses on the four pillars approach – prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement.

It’s set to be released later this fall.

“The declarations are always very big picture, so not everything talked about in them pertains to Canada or Red Deer because we are so much further ahead when talking about HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention,” said Vanderschaeghe. “So this is why when we came back from Washington in 2012 and the Melbourne conference finished up we decided not to ask the City to sign either as we felt the Vienna Declaration was really working for us at a local level.”

The Melbourne Declaration from last week’s conference focused largely on the topic of discrimination stating, “To defeat HIV and achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support – nobody should be criminalized or discriminated against because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability, religious or spiritual beliefs, country of origin, national status, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a sex worker, prisoner or detainee, because they use or have used illicit drugs or because they are living with HIV.”

The declaration asks individuals to call for the, “Immediate and unified opposition to these discriminatory and stigmatizing practices and urge all parties to take a more equitable and effective approach.”

To sign the declaration and learn more about the calls to action from AIDS 2014 visit http://www.aids2014.org/.

jswan@reddeerexpress.com

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