Jun. 5, 2019


The AIDS 2020 theme:
The movement to confront the AIDS epidemic is a portrait in resilience that has led to one of the most extraordinary public health responses in history.

Thirty years ago, the 6th International AIDS Conference in San Francisco (AIDS 1990) was a perfect demonstration of the resilience of the HIV community. In 1990, San Francisco was being devastated by HIV, with thousands of people being diagnosed and hundreds of people dying each year in the absence of effective treatment. That same year, the rapid spread of HIV across sub-Saharan Africa was becoming alarmingly apparent with subsequent declines in life expectancy. In 1990, many scientific experts wondered whether HIV could ever be effectively addressed, projecting a future in which HIV rates would continue to spiral upwards.
At that moment of extreme peril, when little hope was on the horizon, scientists and people living with HIV confronted political and public health leaders as a united front in San Francisco, demanding answers for the inadequate response to a rapidly growing pandemic. The upwelling of solidarity and commitment at AIDS 1990 in a time of profound danger and uncertainty forced the world to see the reality of what was happening to people who were ignored and dying of AIDS-related causes, and pressured leaders to take action.
In the three decades since then, the resilience of the HIV community continued to be tested time and time again. Confronted with a new health threat, communities across the world created organizations that cared for the sick, worked to prevent new HIV infections, and advocated for greater action to combat the disease. In the face of a seemingly hopeless scientific and humanitarian challenge, scientists and activists joined together to accelerate the development of breakthrough treatment and biomedical prevention tools.
It is our unceasing collective passion and strategic action that has led to extraordinary advances that have saved millions of lives. We pushed for political commitments that led to the launch of the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the two largest funders of the global HIV response.
In the countries most affected by HIV, the union of scientists and community advocates led to increases in national budgetary commitments for health. We confronted AIDS denialism and helped unlock treatment access in low- and middle-income countries across the world – a feat once regarded as fanciful. In many countries, we forced political leaders to overturn repressive policies targeting people most vulnerable to HIV.
Today, the resilience that has taken us this far is being tested – this time, in new and different ways as the global health landscape is not what it once was. Now, we must come together and make common cause with other health issues while holding on to the key attributes that have made the HIV response so unique and so successful. We must ensure that we push forward integrated care and prevention approaches that will work for all people living with or at risk of HIV. Our ability to navigate this next phase of the HIV response, with the necessary adaptations in the current setting, is key to help set the emerging new generation of leaders on the path to future success.
As the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020) approaches, we must unite to face the challenges of a deteriorating human rights climate, repressive and punitive national laws in many countries across the globe, increasing xenophobia and social exclusion, and the widening gap between those with and without access to health services. We must use this moment to highlight our successes and address the gaps in the treatment, prevention and care paradigms to demonstrate the strength of our resilience.

AIDS 2020 is a call to action for:
  • Resilience to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing global health landscape and to persevere in the face of uncertainty
  • Resilience to insist on the fundamental human right to live with HIV in dignity and good health over a lifetime, to bounce back from adversity and to help each other in doing so
  • Resilience to avoid fragmentation in the response and to remain united and inclusive in order to meet our common challenges
  • Resilience to lead advocacy and programme implementation until new infections are stopped and everyone has access to prevention, treatment and the social support they need
  • Resilience to advance science in order to find an effective vaccine, develop new prevention tools, improve treatment regimens, including generic options, identify additional effective behaviour-change strategies and ultimately to produce an affordable and accessible cure for HIV
  • Resilience to fight against laws that codify stigma, discrimination and criminalization that restrict gender equality and access to human rights-based responses
  • Resilience to join with advocates and scientists working on other health challenges and find common cause to advance universal health care worldwide
  • Resilience to demand the long-term resources needed to achieve global HIV targets in a comprehensive global health agenda and to push back against short-sighted cuts to national and international budgets. 

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About the series
With a focus on people living with HIV, public health experts, activists, politicians and pop culture icons, AIDS 2020 is a podcast that follows the stories of key players connected to the conference as the epidemic approaches a critical inflection point. Hosted by H. Andrew Schwartz, Stephen Morrison, and Sara Allinder at the CSIS

Episode I: An Interview with Monica Gandhi
In this inaugural episode of AIDS 2020, CSIS’s Steve Morrison and Andrew Schwartz speak with Dr. Monica Gandhi, a physician and the San Francisco co-chair of the AIDS 2020 conference. They discuss preparations for next year’s conference and the meaning of the AIDS 2020 conference theme: “Resilience.”

The AIDS 2020 Local Planning Group acts as a central point in planning and coordinating local activities in the lead up to and during the AIDS 2020 conference. READ MORE

The Co-Chairs

Larkin Callaghan
University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Growing up in San Francisco, Dr. Larkin Callaghan couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

As well as being an elected Co-Chair of the AIDS2020 Local Planning Group, Larkin also serves as the Director of Strategic Research Communications and Partnerships for the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF.

Rob Newells 
AIDS Project East Bay

It’s been more than 20 years since the Reverend Rob Newells, an Associate Minister at the Imani Community Church in his native city of Oakland, and Executive Director of the AIDS Project of the East Bay, consciously dedicated himself to the community of those living with and affected by HIV.


The Steering Committee 
The AIDS 2020 Local Planning Group is led by a Steering Committee which currently has 23 members with representatives from the City of San Francisco, City of Oakland and Department of Health, as well as elected officials and members of the Conference Coordinating Committee (CCC). READ MORE
Become a supporter of the
Local Planning Group

Show your support for the Local Planning Group by adding your name to the list of community supporters.
Human rights at the centre
Erika Castellanos, Director of Programmes at Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE) on the power of uniting science and advocacy.

The Bay Area response
Congresswoman Barbara Lee and local Bay Area advocates discuss progress and remaining challenges in addressing HIV.  


Telling our stories
Minister Rob Newells on the importance of reaching key populations in the global AIDS response.

Getting to zero
San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO and CCC member Joe Hollendoner’s perspective on what’s working.

The future of HIV
AIDS 2020 Oakland Chair Cynthia Carey-Grant’s perspective on ensuring that no one is left behind in progress against the epidemic.

Welcome to AIDS 2020 
Nov. 30, 2018

Fri 11/30/2018, 7:45 AM

WHO news for World AIDS Day 2018

30 November 2018 - World AIDS Day 2018 will be commemorated on 1 December under the global theme “Know your status”. The occasion also celebrates the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, first initiated by WHO in 1988.

Over 30 years ago, in 1986, WHO first evaluated rapid diagnostic tests for HIV. During the intervening decades, HIV testing services became widely available – routinely through clinical settings and to higher-risk populations through community-based approaches. By 2017, 75% of the people estimated to be living with HIV (28 million out of 37 million) had accessed HIV testing and been diagnosed.

Nevertheless, important testing gaps remain. WHO and partners recommend the use of self-tests as an additional tool to overcome these gaps. WHO first recommended HIV self-testing in December 2016. Today, more than 59 countries have policies on self-testing, with 28 of countries fully implementing the policies.

The “Know your status” theme should also go beyond HIV services. People should not test positive for HIV and receive treatment, only to die of TB, due to poor access to TB diagnosis among people living with HIV. Approximately 1 in 3 deaths among people with HIV is caused by TB. And around 5 million people are living with both HIV and viral hepatitis, with most of these people unaware. Further, noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, affect at least 1 in 3 people living with HIV.

On its 30th anniversary, the World AIDS Day campaign reminds us that we should not become complacent in our response to HIV. Nearly half of the people living with HIV still lack access to treatment and have unsuppressed infections. The future success of the HIV response requires us to look beyond HIV care and empower better linkages with broader health care. Doing so can help people with and at risk of HIV access the care they need – be it for TB, mental health, hepatitis or another disease. This strategy can help the world get on track to not only end HIV, but also achieve “health for all” by 2030.

See WHO news and products released in the lead-up to World AIDS Day 2018:
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros’ statement for World AIDS Day 2018:
WHO spotlight WHY the HIV epidemic is not over:
WHO infographics and campaign materials:
WHO and ILO promote workplace self-testing (ILO news):
New WHO/ILO policy brief on self-testing in workplace
WHO commends Viet Nam for increasing access to PrEP for HIV prevention and sexual health:
WHO launches HTS dashboards

Aug. 20, 2018

Kofi Annan’s AIDS legacy
By UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

A shining light of Africa has passed away. An African at heart, but a global citizen, Kofi Annan symbolized the best of humanity. He was a rabble-rouser, a troubleshooter and a change-maker.

At the turn of the century, AIDS denialism was at its peak. Mr Annan helped to break it. “More people have died of AIDS in the past year in Africa than in all the wars on the continent. AIDS is a major crisis for the continent, governments have got to do something. We must end the conspiracy of silence, the shame over this issue,” he said.

When Mr Annan began his term as the new United Nations Secretary-General in 1997, the outlook for the AIDS epidemic was bleak—some 23.9 million people were living with HIV, there were 3.5 million new HIV infections and access to life-saving treatment was only available to a privileged few.

He cajoled world leaders, humbly, diplomatically, and when the message did not sink in he spoke out publicly and forcefully. “Friends, we know what it takes to turn the tide against this epidemic. It requires every president and prime minister, every parliamentarian and politician, to decide and declare that “AIDS stops with me. AIDS stops with me,”” he said.

Under his leadership, in 2000 the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1308, identifying AIDS as a threat to global security. In 2001, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS was held—the first-ever meeting of world leaders on a health issue at the United Nations.

In 2000, at a time when less than US$ 1 billion was being invested in the AIDS response, he called for a war chest of at least US$ 7–10 billion for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. That call, and his concerted lobbying of world leaders, led to the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which went on to save millions of lives. Mr Annan remained a patron of the Global Fund, helping to ensure that it is fully funded.

The Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing the spread of AIDS and the 2001 United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS set HIV prevention targets, but did not set concrete targets for access to treatment. At the time, the cost of antiretroviral medicines was astronomically high. Sitting down with the pharmaceutical industry, Mr Annan helped to pave the way for an eventual reduction in their prices. Who could have believed in 2001 that the cost of life-saving antiretroviral medicines would fall by 2018 to as low as US$ 60 per person per year. Today, some 21 million people are on HIV treatment.

Mr Annan deftly used his convening power for good. When he learned that less than 30% of people had knowledge of HIV, he brought together media leaders and helped to launch the Global Media AIDS Initiative. As a result, hundreds of hours of AIDS awareness programmes were run pro bono by public and private media companies around the world. Mr Annan even appeared with an HIV-positive Sesame Street character, helping to reduce stigma and discrimination against children affected by HIV.

His heart was with people affected by HIV. He saw first-hand the realities of the HIV epidemic. He knew that real change came when women and girls were empowered. “It requires real, positive change that will give more power and confidence to women and girls and transform relations between women and men at all levels of society,” he said. “It requires greater resources for women, better laws for women and more seats for women at the decision-making table. It requires all of you to make the fight against AIDS your personal priority not only this session, or this year, or next year, but every year until the epidemic is reversed.”

He embraced diversity. He was vocal about the rights of sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who use drugs and transgender people. “We need to be able to protect the most vulnerable, and if we are here to try and end the epidemic and fight the epidemic, we will not succeed by putting our head in the sand and pretending that these people do not exist or that they do not need help,” he said. “We need to help them and we need to resist any attempt to prevent us from recognizing the need for action and assistance to these people.”

Mr Annan had a special place in his heart for UNAIDS. He made time for us, kept informed about the progress made in the AIDS response and donated the royalties from a book of his speeches, We the peoples: a UN for the twenty-first century, to UNAIDS. Four weeks ago, when I met with him for lunch, he expressed happiness over how far we had come but was equally concerned that the response was not keeping pace with the ambition we had set.

Two decades ago, he characterized the impact of AIDS as the single greatest reversal in the history of human development, the greatest challenge of our generation. I recall his words as he accepted the UNAIDS Leadership Award in 2016. “Today, we see tremendous progress, but the fight is not over. We must continue the struggle and wake up each morning ready to fight and fight again, until we win.”

At UNAIDS, we promise that we will not rest until the AIDS epidemic has ended. We owe it to him.