OAKLAND, CA -- More than 100 of the world's top experts on human rights and HIV among sexual minorities will lead presentations and workshops in Vienna on July 17 at BE HEARD, an all-day conference event to address soaring global rates of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM). BE HEARD is the largest gathering to focus on the disproportionate impact of HIV among gay men. The event will precede the launch of AIDS 2010, the XVIII International AIDS Conference (IAC).
Hosted by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), BE HEARD will focus on challenges and solutions to achieving universal access to HIV-related prevention, care, treatment, and support services for sexual minority communities worldwide. The event comes at a time when MSM in low- and middle-income countries are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population, yet only one in five has access to the HIV prevention, care and treatment services they need.
"MSM have been at disproportionately high risk of HIV infection since the epidemic started," said George Ayala, Executive Officer of the MSMGF. "Yet our issues remain severely underrepresented at the international level. As prevalence rates among MSM are surpassing 30 percent in countries rich and poor alike, there is no time to waste. BE HEARD is one of very few dedicated venues to focus on this staggering crisis."
The day will feature work by activists from around the world, as well as plenary speeches from UNAIDS Executive DirectorMichel Sidibe, US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Global Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine, and AIDS-Free World Co-Director Stephen Lewis, among others. The program will highlight a wide array of the most pressing health and human rights issues facing sexual minorities today, including the criminalization of homosexuality, new biomedical approaches to HIV prevention, and the spread of HIV among men who have sex with men in low- and middle-income countries.
BE HEARD is the largest event of its kind, with over 600 attendees from more than 100 countries. The attendance of activists from low- and middle-income countries has been a high priority for the organizers, reflected by an extensive scholarship program for participants from the global south. Due in part to this scholarship program, more than 50 percent of registered attendees will be traveling to the conference from low- and middle-income countries.
The MSMGF launched the biennial event in 2004 as a "pre-conference" to the International AIDS Conference in response to concerns that MSM health and human rights issues are often ignored at local and international levels.
"We are disappointed that such neglect remains reflected in the program of this year's International AIDS Conference," Ayala said. "Only 2 percent of all scheduled sessions specifically address the needs of MSM. BE HEARD aims to counter this invisibility and silence."
The event will run from 8:30AM to 6:00PM on Saturday, July 17, at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. A 7:30PMreception will follow at Heuriger Fuhrgassl-Huber (Ottakringer st 222-224, 1160 Wien 1160 Vienna), hosted by the Office of the Mayor of Vienna. MSMGF will also hold a 1:30PM press conference on July 20 at IAC Press Conference Room 1 that will address the current state of health and human rights of sexual minorities worldwide, including a discussion of selected findings from BE HEARD.
About the MSMGF
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is an expanding network of AIDS organizations, MSM networks, and advocates committed to ensuring robust coverage of and equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM. Guided by a Steering Committee of 20 members from 17 countries situated mainly in the Global South, and with administrative and fiscal support from AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), the MSMGF works to promote MSM health and human rights worldwide through advocacy, information exchange, knowledge production, networking, and capacity building.