A Conference on HIV Science and the People at the Center

By Liz Millar, MPH. This blog post introduces the IAS Conference on HIV Science and describes a MEASURE Evaluation session at the event.

By Liz Millar, MPH, MEASURE Evaluation

This weekend, along with four colleagues, I’ll head to the International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019) in Mexico City. IAS is the world’s largest gathering of HIV/AIDS experts and activists—with 6,000 expected this year. The excitement likely will come in discovering what trending topics emerge. The last time IAS convened in Mexico City, in 2008, the buzz was about the potential impact of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in reducing HIV transmission. What will be new this time?

The program for IAS 2019 is highlighting advancements in the fields of biomedical technologies, strategies in HIV prevention, and advancements in tracking and achieving epidemic control. I plan to attend the sessions that focus on the best ways to reach the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations, including indigenous people and adolescent girls and young women. For a conference that focuses so heavily on scientific and clinical work, it’s promising to see sessions right alongside the science with a focus on individual people who make up the statistics—those for whom the treatment and prevention are being developed. Individuals often get lost in big picture discussions but as countries approach epidemic control the need grows for ever more granular data. These data usually come from community and case-based reporting and focus more on the individual—meaning program managers can create specifically meaningful interventions.

Another aspect of the meeting I am anxious to watch is that IAS has been known for encouraging diverse perspectives and even allows protesters to interrupt any session for up to two minutes. If I witness one of these protests, I may gain a new perspective on the HIV epidemic which I hadn’t previously considered.

I’ll also be presenting during MEASURE Evaluation’s satellite session on Sunday, July 21, 2019, “Measuring what counts: Maximizing the use of health information to speed country progress towards 95-95-95.” For the last several years, the USAID- and PEPFAR-funded MEASURE Evaluation project has worked to strengthen health information systems in a number of countries. We’re worked with countries as they’ve established information systems; strengthened existing systems; and built a skilled workforce for collecting, analyzing, and using high-quality HIV data for achieving epidemic control. We’ll be sharing experiences from individual countries and examples of MEASURE Evaluation resources for strengthening health information systems. We’ll also discuss the importance of measurement using both routine and non-routine data.

I invite you to follow me throughout the week as I blog about my experience at IAS, about the sessions I attend and any protests I witness!

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