The 19th International HIV/AIDS Conference was held between 22nd and 27th July 2012 in Washington D.C., USA. Organised every two years, the conference aims to gather policy makers, people living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic, in order to present new scientific evidence and lessons learned on tackling the HIV epidemic.

This year, however, some of the most affected populations were not able to attend the conference because of the US travel ban on people who use drugs and sex works. This situation was highly criticised throughout the conference (see, for example, a protest during the conference’s press briefing). Two hubs, one focusing on drug use and the other on sex work, were organised prior to and during the conference to ensure that the voices of these vulnerable groups be represented at AIDS 2012.

A pre-conference session entitled “The twin epidemics of HIV and drug use” highlighted the importance of drug policy reform and harm reduction interventions to curb the HIV epidemic among people who use drugs.

Within the conference’s main programme, there were some powerful speeches delivered on harm reduction and drug policy reform, including that from Debbie McMillan, Michel Kazatchkine and Michel Sidibe. A limited number of sessions also focused on HIV prevention among people who use drugs.

It was the Global Village, and particularly the Harm reduction and drug policy networking zone, coordinated by the Harm Reduction Coalition, which provided the main forum for discussing drug-related HIV issues. The zone provided a useful space for networking and sharing documentation on HIV and drug use. Many sessions were also organised at the zone, including the launch of the Global State of Harm Reduction by Harm Reduction International, an overview of the Community Action on Harm Reduction project by IDPC and the AIDS Alliance, or the broadcast of a series of videos by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.

For more information, please read IDPC's blog post on AIDS 2012.

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