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Rutgers at Aids2018

From July 21 to July 27, Rutgers attended the 22nd International AIDS Conference 2018 in Amsterdam. We've led multiple side events on linking the HIV response to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Our Aids2018 experiences were collected in a live-blog, which resulted in an interesting recap of world's largest conference on any global health or development issue.

Friday July 27 2018: Last Day

As the final day of the conference, today is a day to reflect on the past week. This is our final live-blog. Do you have any suggestions or comments, please contact us on Twitter.

Building bridges for the next generation
Today, during the plenary session Building bridges for the next generation, the work of Rutgers and our model for comprehensive sexuality education was highlighted by a speaker of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When Dutch teens have sex for the first time, 9 out of 10 used some form of contraceptives. This can partly be explained by discussing sexuality of young people openly in schools through sexuality education lessons. To effectively integrate SRHR and HIV services, an comprehensive approach is necessary.

Thursday July 26 2018: Global Gag Rule

Workshop on the Global Gag Rule
This morning, Rutgers co-organised a workshop on the implications of the Global Gag Rule on HIV/AIDS and SRHR work. Several experts, such as Rutgers’ Executive Director Ton Coenen, were present to answer questions on the devastating US policy. Chloë Cooney, Senior Director of Global Advocacy of Planned Parenthood, pointed out that “we are mitigating the harm and sustaining the work we are doing on global health”.

Understanding the Global Gag Rule is essential in order to actively address its consequences. During the session, it was underlined how the new iteration of the policy is a massive expansion from the past. Trump’s Global Gag Rule is extending its restrictions to all global health assistance provided through USAID, the Department of State, and the Department of Health and Human Services in more than 60 low and middle income countries.

Nang’andu Joan Kamwale, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Zambia illustrated the direct consequences they encountered. “We had to close clinics and stop providing services, including HIV services among key populations. We had to give back all of the laboratory and medical equipment, and lay off staff because of the Global Gag Rule.”

Whole School Approach
GUSO’s partner STFUganda presented findings from our Whole School Approach pilot. The results confirm the initial claim that the approach provides an increased support for sexuality education in both in- and out-of-school settings.

With the Whole School Approach, schools takes full control over implementation of sexuality education. Moreover, it creates support for this important but sensitive subject. It reaches out to people in - and around-school settings, including parents, health care providers and government officials. This way, the impact of sexuality education increases and is more sustainable.

Youth advocacy in Uganda
GUSO’s Youth Country Coordinators facilitated a session on youth advocacy. During this session, the Youth Country Coordinators shared their experience on Meaningful Youth Participation.

UNYPA wins Award
GUSO Uganda partner UNYPA wins Fast Forward Award for its innovative Y+ plus beauty pageant. The Award searches for innovative interventions organised by and for the community. The Y+ beauty pageant is developed to celebrate beauty with Zero Discrimination, and aimed at fighting stigma and discrimination against young people affected and living with HIV and AIDS.

Mpact side event
Mpact and FSP’s side-event was about the importance of including HIV in the sustainable development goals and how organisations can facilitate this. Rutgers’s Advocacy Manager, Yvonne Bogaarts explained the importance of engaging in the Voluntary National Review, an accountability mechanism connected to the High-Level Political Form (HLPF) which can be useful for engaging in the sustainable development goals (SDG) and making your voice heard.


Wednesday July 25 2018: Youth representation at AIDS2018

Youth Country Coordinators 
Within the international alliance Get Up Speak Out (GUSO), Rutgers works with six partners to improve the sexual health and rights of young people in seven countries in Africa and Asia. Each country in the programme has a Youth Country Coordinator (YCC). Three of those YCCs are currently in Amsterdam attending AIDS2018. They have a full programme of events and panels to attend. Olgah Namukuza, the YCC from Uganda, talked about effective ways of comprehensive sexuality education: the whole school approach, youth connected advocacy and edutainment.

From Amsterdam to Kampala
Ugandan GUSO partner Reach A Hand hosted a Facebook Live session at the International Aids Conference today, making it possible for people in Kampala to connect with Amsterdam and talk about HIV interventions. If you missed the broadcast, you can re-watch it here.

Rutgers at the Dutch Booth
Rutgers started the third day of the International Aids Conference at the Dutch Booth. It was a busy and inspiring morning with people from all over the world stopping by the booth for more information. Many of the visitors had heard about the Dutch Approach, but were curious to find out more details. There was a lot of exchange of information, but also room for some fun. At the Dutch Booth you could take a “Dutch Approach selfie”, which many people did. 



Tuesday 24 July 2018: The Dutch Approach

Dutch Booth 
The Dutch Booth is open! Together with our Dutch partners, we're at booth 128 to explain the Dutch Approach, our way of working together on SRHR and HIV issues. It's an inclusive approach, with scientists, policy makers, health professionals, private sector (entrepreneurs), people living with HIV, activists and people from governmental and non-governmental organisations involved. This approach has proven to be effective. Furthermore the importance of sharing best practices and learning from experience is widely acknowledged. Rutgers will be at the booth on Wednesday morning.

Can't make it to #AIDS2018 but interested to learn more about the Dutch Approach? This video gives you a quick overview.


Monday 23 July 2018: The conference begins

The 22nd International AIDS Conference has officially been opened. In the opening ceremony, Linda-Gail Bekker, president of the International AIDS Society, remarked that this edition has the most youth representation in the event's history. She also said: "The merits of gender equality are no longer up for debate."

Call to action to integrate SRHR and HIV interventions
Earlier in the day, the First Lady of Namibia launched a call to action to attain universal health coverage through linked sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV interventions. She writes on Twitter: "Namibia is seeing the benefits of fullness integrated primary healthcare services." Read the call to action here.

Blended approach
In the evening, Ineke van der Vlugt, programme manager Contraception and Abortion at Rutgers, presented the Dutch Approach and factors of success at a session titled Sexual Health for Young People: a Blended Approach. This was a Rutgers and Soa Aids Nederland co-organised event with a panel of experts. A connection was made between comprehensive sexuality education in schools and online services, help and advice. The Rutgers programme manager talked about, a Dutch website that not only provides information about preventing STIs and pregnancies, but also about how to have pleasurable sex. This positive approach has proven more effective than only providing fear-based or problem-based information. 

Sunday 22 July 2018: Welcome to the Global Village

The Global Village is open! Rutgers is represented at two booths in this 8,000 square meter big meeting space. Find us at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) booth, number 645. The Global Village also offers the opportunity to meet others involved in sexual and reproductive health and rights. The SRHR Networking Zone is booth 517. From Tuesday onwards, we're also at the Dutch Booth (booth 128) in the main conference hall. There, you can learn more about the Dutch approach, the way we work together with our partners on SRHR and HIV in the Netherlands.

Find out more about the Global Village on the IAS website.

Saturday July 21 2018: pre-conferences on uniting movements

Officially, the 22nd International AIDS Conference hasn’t even started. However, for Rutgers, Saturday July 21st was already a day of highlights. Rutgers took part in no less than three pre-conferences organised around Amsterdam today, all centred around the question: how do we link SRHR and the HIV response?

SRHR Pre-Conference
Together with IPPF, Rutgers hosted the first ever pre-conference on SRHR. While poor sexual and reproductive health and HIV share common root causes, the respective responses remain largely unaligned and uncoordinated. Now, more than ever there is a need for joint action. Or as it was put in the opening remarks by the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission: “You cannot improve health without improving rights.”  

Rutgers Executive Director, Ton Coenen spoke of the challenges faced by all involved with SRHR. “There are so many sexual health battles to be fought due to growing conservatism. We have the facts, but need better ways to frame them to make change.” Lilianne Ploumen, founder of SheDecides, also spoke of a battle: “If we can sustain the energy of She Decides, Argentina and Ireland, we will not only be in the battle ground of women’s rights, but we will win the battle.”

Uniting the Safe Abortion and HIV movements
In the Rode Hoed, the Our Bodies, Our Fight pre-conference aimed to unite the movement for safe abortion care with the HIV movement. Women and girls seeking abortion services, and people affected by HIV/AIDS often face the same unique barriers. They experience stigma, discrimination and violations of bodily integrity. How can we join forces and path a way forward? 

According to Tikhala Itaye, chair of the global SheDecides movement “young people have the power to create the impact we are looking for.” Two youth advocates from Ireland shared lessons from the country’s recent abortion referendum. “Be inclusive, have a united voice, and support grass roots organisations. Those are three important factors for success!”

The Youth Pre-Conference, which started Friday night, our global strategic partnership Right Here Right Now, led two sessions in the SRHR Specialists House. The workshops focused on the importance of being inclusive and having meaningful youth participation.

Friday July 20 2018: Welcome!

At the International AIDS Conference, Rutgers and partners will highlight the importance of integrating SRHR and HIV/AIDS work. Poor sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS have common root causes. "We face so many external challenges and growing conservatism that we have to join forces. That is why Rutgers is leading multiple events at the conference focusing on these important topics", says Rutgers' Executive Director Ton Coenen

Tomorrow, Saturday July 21, Rutgers is co-hosting two pre-conferences.As a partner, Rutgers is leading Our Bodies, Our Fight, which aims to underline the necessity of uniting the movements for HIV/AIDS and safe abortion care, and Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges for the Right to Decide which is the first ever pre-event focused on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights