[Ed. Note — Contributor Michael Harney, who works as an educator at Asheville’s Western North Carolina AIDS Project, traveled to the International AIDS Conference July 20-25 and offered qnotes several commentaries and updates. Below, we have compiled some of his updates. You can read all of his dispatches from the conference online at goqnotes.com/in/aids-2014/.]

MELBOURNE, Australia — The XX International AIDS Conference attracted approximately 15,000 delegates from nearly 200 nations, but before the official events began, a pre-conference was held discussing HIV and men who have sex with men (MSM) from around the globe.

On July 19, the Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF) convened a gathering of several hundred MSM from around the world to discuss efforts related to reducing HIV infection, disparities, stigma, and criminalization.

This two-day forum included transgender people again, making it only the second time such distinct inclusion has occurred for this long-standing pre-International AIDS Conference meeting.

Presenters said that in order to “get to zero” new infections by 2030 we need to redouble efforts against stigma and assure that our concepts of “community” are inclusive, and do not leave the most impacted populations behind.

Additionally, there is a disproportionate impact of HIV on the transgender population. A 2013 Lancet article with data from 15 countries showing the trans prevalence of HIV 48 times that of the cisgender population.

At the AIDS Conference itself, a variety of plenary speakers, workshops and other events focused on HIV prevention, treatment and cure. Also discussed was the end of HIV and criminalization. Repressive penal codes targeted toward sex workers, women, MSM and others can promote violence and humiliation, leading to increased stigma and decreased access to healthcare.

On July 23, former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke at the conference. He reminded the conference that the U.S. has seen a 13 percent increase in HIV infections among young men who have sex with men (YMSM). “Stigma and discrimination are actually on the rise,” continued Clinton, “especially among LGBTQ people  — conditions that should no longer exist.”

Next year’s International AIDS Conference will be held in Durban, South Africa, under the leadership of newly-installed International AIDS Society President Chris Beyrer, the first openly gay man to take the role.

— Michael Harney, compiled by qnotes staff

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