cc: AIDS 2020 Conference Coordinating Committee members
Dear IAS Leaders,
We write to express sincere concern around International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020), currently planned for early July 2020 in San Francisco and Oakland in the United States.
The signatories to this letter include individual researchers, research participants, clinicians, providers, advocates, public officials, funders, allied stakeholders, and members of the HIV workforce, including people who are living with HIV ourselves, as well as organizations and networks. Many of us have been donors to, members of or worked with IAS for years or decades, and been a part of many International AIDS Conferences, including the 1990 conference in San Francisco and AIDS 2012 in Washington D.C., as well as others around the world. In addition, some of us are or have been sex workers or people who use drugs, two populations explicitly banned from entry into United States. And many of us are people of color, immigrants, and/or LGBT people who are currently experiencing increased violence and assaults on our civil and human rights.
While we as individuals and representatives of organizations have a range of opinions about the selection of the Bay Area for the 2020 conference, we share concerns about the issues below, and look to the IAS and partners for explicit and meaningful answers that have not yet been provided to us.
As is always appropriate in our work, we are centralizing the lives and health of people living with HIV and members of key populations in this inquiry. However, we also care deeply about the well-being of the IAS itself, in relation to these concerns.
We recognize the planning for AIDS 2020 is proceeding. Yet there is an urgent need for answers to the questions below, and others that may arrive, given political instability in the United States and other pressing issues. We respectfully ask for an open and thorough response to these concerns by November 20th.
We offer this letter in the spirit of collaboration with the genuine wish to find solutions that are best for the long term global HIV response. Our questions are below.
Sincerely, The undersigned
Jim Pickett, for the International Rectal Microbicides Alliance (IRMA), andSuraj Madoori, for Treatment Action Group (TAG)
in addition to:(list in formation):
Organizations:Africans in Partnership Against AIDS(APAA)African Services CommitteeAIDS Community Care MontrealAIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern AfricaAlex's Counseling Services All Under One Roof LGBT AdvocatesAmerican Medical Student Association (AMSA)Amida Care NYAfrican Sex Workers Alliance -ASWA AIDS Action BaltimoreArianna's Center Asia CatalystAsia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW)Asociación Civil Cambio y Acción Asociación de Trabajadoras Sexuales Miluska Vida y Dignidad Association Québécoise pour la Promotion de la Santé des personnes Utilisatrices de DroguesAVACATHENA Network Body Positive NZBureau régional action sida, GatineauCenter for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA)COMMISIONE PARI OPPORTUNITA POLITICHE SOCIALI COMUNE DI MILANOConigli Bianchi - ARTivists against serophobiaDavida/Daspu/Brazilian Network of Sex WorkersEmpower IndiaEuropean AIDS Treatment GroupENPUDFuckförbundet Swedish sex worker organizationFunders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA)geipsiGlobal Network of Sex Work ProjectsThe Gran Varones Harm Reduction CoalitionHawai‘i Health & Harm Reduction CenterHealth GAPHealthHIVHIV/AIDS Albania - Social Media CampaignHIV Justice NetworkHIPSHIVOSHoward Brown Health Icebreaker Uganda Idaho Coalition for HIV Health and SafetyInternational Committee on the Rights of Sex workers in EuropeKIDS & TEENS RESOURCE CENTRE, Akure, Ondo State, NigeriaLaGender IncLife InclusiveLove To Love Organization MCC ANGELES EN ACCIONMENANPUDMesa de Concertacion LTGB y TS de Lima MetropolitanaMinority AIDS Council of Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun CountiesMovimiento de Trabajadoras Sexuales del PerúMPact Global Action for Gay Men's Health and RightsNational Coalition for LGBT HealthNational Coalition of PLHIV in IndiaNational Working Positive CoalitionNo Dejarse es Incluirse A.C.PLAPERTSPortail VIH/sida du QuébecPositive Action for Treatment Access, NigeriaPositive Iowans Taking ChargePositive Leaders UnionPositive Women's Network-USAPositively Alive Support Network for Gay Men South AfricaPositively TransPWN-USA- Louisiana Project XRed Umbrella AthensRed Umbrella FundScarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association Sero ProjectSex Work Education and Advocacy Task forceSex Workers Outreach Project (NSW)Sex Worker's Rights Advocacy NetworkSisonke Movement Stella, l'amie de MaimieSTAR-STAR, The first sex worker collective in the BalkansSTRASS Syndicat du Travail SexuelStronger Together - Association for Support of People Living with HIV (Macedonia)SWOP Behind Bars SWOP-SeattleTAMPEP NederlandTransgender Law CenterTrans Sistas of Color Project Transitions LouisianaUnion des travailleu(r)ses du sexe pour l'indépendanceUS People Living with HIV CaucusVancouver Island PWA Society (VPWAS)Velvet DecemberWarren-Vance Community Health Center, Inc.Zion House of Prayer
Individuals:Hamid Moh'd Ali Richard Panix Amoh-Otu, Youth Alliance for Health and Human Rights (YAHR) John-Manuel Andriote, Author and JournalistGord Asmus, Peer Engagement Coordinator, Local ASODr. Karen Badalyan, Eurasian Key Populations Health Network Deborah Baron, Doctoral student, Health Behavior Dept at UNC Chapel HillBob Baugher, Ph.D., Psychology Instructor, Highline CollegeLinda RM Baumann, Strategic Coordinator, Namibia Diverse Women's Association (NDWA)Janko Belin, društvo AREALLucy Bradley-Springer, PhD, RN, ACRN, FAAN Dr, Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS CareAlan Brand, Positively AliveLeslie Braun, RN, Primary Care HIV, Nine Circles Community Health ClinicGina Brown, Black woman living with HIV, PACHA member, 2014-2017 (PACHA6)Reginald Brown, M. Ed., Ambassador, Unity Fellowship of Christ Church NYC Ulysses Burley IIIScott Burris, Professor of Law and Public Health, Temple UniversityAb BuijzeAlejandra Cabral, UCLA Keiva Lei Cadena, Community Advocate, Hawaii Health & Harm Reduction CenterBré Anne Campbell, Detroit, MIChristine CampbellChristopher M. Cannon, MPHGeorge M. Carter, FIARErika Castro, MD-PhDMarco Castro-Bojorquez, Founder, HIVenas AbiertasPaul Causey, MSM (and Transgender) Asia (Pacific) Google GroupMichael CecilioNazarius Celsus, President, myISEANSophocles Chanos, Head Athens & Thessaloniki Checkpoint, Positive Voice, Hellenic Association PLWHAMartin Choo, Kuala Lumpur AIDS Support Services Society (KLASS)Cecilia Chung, San Francisco, CAChad Clarke, ADVOCATE/ACTIVIST, Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization Cyndee Clay, HIPSPaul CliftMavie CollinsBen Collins, Director, ReShape/International HIV PartnershipsNamakula Nakato Daisy, National Coordinator, Uganda Network of Sex Workers' Organisations (UNESO)Clair Daney, AIDS Foundation of ChicagoViken Darakjian, Positive People Armenian Network, social NGOLeigh Davids, South Africa Trans movementRandy Davis, Pride Coordinator, Prevention Access Campaign David de Croy, Social Worker Craig Dales, Executive Director, Vancouver Island PWA Society (VPWAS)Sharon S. DeCuir, Baton Rouge, LALynda Dee, Executive Director, AIDS Action BaltimoreAlex DeLakis, AIDS Foundation of ChicagoJacob Distel, Executive Director, Lansing Area AIDS NetworkTri Do, MD, MPHKelly Doyle, Executive Director, CARES, Chair, HIV AIDS Alliance of MichiganKabine DoumbiaDaniël Du Preez, One Love LGBTIQ+ CommunityAlberto Edeza, PhD Student Brown University Gloria D. Eldridge Professor, University of Alaska AnchorageElder Antionettea Etienne, Iris House, Inc. PWN-NYC Chapter, LAISP ChurchJason Farrell, Project Officer, Correlation-European Harm Reduction NetworkStuart Flavell, Conference Organizing Committee member,AIDS 2002-Barcelona, AIDS 2004-BangkokNajeeb Ahmad Fokeerbux, Young Queer AllianceDr. Carrie Foote, Professor of Sociology, IUPUI, Chair of HIV Modernization Movement-IndianaAnna ForbesTem FreyaEddie FukuiRamon Gardenhire, Vice President of Policy & Advocacy, AIDS Foundation of ChicagoJorge Garrido, Executive Director, APOYO POSITIVOJill Gay, Chief Technical Officer, What Works AssociationDr. Eric GlareGrissel Granados, PACHA Member 2015-2017Mauro Guarinieri, EATG, EuroNPUDGary W. Harper, PhD, MPH, University of MichiganTami HaughtLee Hertel, Lee's Rig HubJemeika Hicks, Resource Specialist, AIDS Foundation of Chicago Ian Hodgson, EATGDavid Holtgrave, PhD, Albany, NYGuido Silvestri, Professor, Emory UniversityBrian Hudjich, Washington, DCChristian HuiKareem Ibrahim, Student, Allard School of LawDr. Mark IngRobin IrwinShahnaz Islamova, Tais Plus, KyrgyzstanLesherri James Dr. Qaiser JavedMavuto Jawado, FOCCAD Tian Johnson, African Alliance for HIV Prevention Bryan C. Jones, FOUNDER /DIRT ADVOCACY MOVEMENT, U=ULizzie Jordan, Think2Speak Audu Kadiri, Youth Builders Initiative (YBI)Brian Kanyemba, Key Populations Prevention Advocate Pat Kelly, A Family AffairIrene Keizer, Manager Policy and Grants, AidsfondsAlexandra de Kiewit, CAPUDPaul KiddMARK S KING, Activist, My Fabulous DiseaseJeremy Kwan, Gay Advocate and Activist MTAAG+Raju Lama, Sudur paschim samajSamir LamaKeiko Lane, Marriage and Family TherapistDenis LeBlanc, Activist, Survivor Living with HIVEdward Low, Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)Stirbu Lucia MariaAlanTimothy Lunceford-Stevens, Activist, End AIDS Now & Let’s Kick ASS NYVickie Lynn, MSW, MPH, Doctoral CandidateMaureen E. Lyon, PhD Clinical Health Psychologist, Children's National Health SystemDavid Malebranche, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Morehouse School of MedicineJohn Manwaring, Victoria Dept of Health and Human Services, Melbourne, Victoria, AustraliaDerrick MappWilliam Matovu, HIV Activist, Love To Love Organization Christina Meade, PhD, Duke University Brian Minalga, MSW, Seattle, WA, USAAlex Margery, Executive Chairman, TANEPHA - TANZANIASandro Mattioli, Plus OnlusHilary McQuie, MAMark Misrok, Executive Director, National Working Positive CoalitionLuckyboy Edison Mkhondwane, IndividualBright Vuyani Mndaka, Siyakha Isizwe Multi Purpose CentreAugustus MokabediJose Joaquin Mulinelli-Rodriguez, Executive Director, Coai, Inc.Pancho MulongeniDavid Munar, Chicago, ILTerry McGovern, JD, New York, NYVeaceslav Mulear, GENDERDOC-MChantal Mukandoli, Peer Support Worker Assistance, APAA(African In Partnership Against Aids)Alex Muller, Professor, University of Cape TownKenneth Mwehonge, Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS Uganda)Mariam Nabukeera, Coordinator, Gender Park-AfricaDeyonce Naris, National Coordinator, Transgender Intersex Androgynous Movement of Namibia (TIAMON)Toni Newman, Executive Director, St. James InfirmaryNgoc NguyenOlivier Nkenjeu Michelle Collins Ogle, MD, Medical Director, Warren-Vance Community Health Center, Inc.Fanta Ongoiba, Executive Director, Africans in Partnership Against AIDS(APAA)William Matovu, Community educator /HIV Activist, Love To Love Organization Francisco Javier Parga MirandaJay P. Paul, PhDJohn Peller, AIDS Foundation of ChicagoEric Peters, Community MemberMeghan Peterson, Brown University School of Public HealthShane Anthony PetzerDavid M. Phillips, DC Community Coalition for AIDS2012Rev. Dr. Damon Powell - Artist & TheologianMark Randall HIV MSM Educator Worker, PHAAnna Ratecka, Jagiellonian UniversityMalcolm Reid, Policy Director, ThriveSSAnouk Rey, General Manager, Red PencilChristina Robinson, AIDS Foundation of ChicagoJoseph Saidi, LGBTI activist, LGBTI movement Cynthia Sanchez, Salt Lake City, UTFred Schaich, President, International Foundation for Alternative Research in AIDSJulie M. Scofield, Former Executive Director & Founder, NASTADReverend J D Scott-Hoffman, Washington Institute of Natural Medicine and Universal Life ChurchMike Selick, Hepatitis C Training and Policy Manager, Harm Reduction CoalitionSara Semelka, AIDS Foundation of ChicagoNeil SelfAditi SharmaKarma Sherpa, Executive board, Recovering NepalNelson Mutugi Silas, Executive Director, EMAC-NGOEric SmithLala Maty Sow, Association And SoppekuTasleem J. Padamsee, PhD, College of Public Health, The Ohio State UniversityWAFFO LELE François Patrick, President, Avenir Jeune de l'Ouest (AJO)Venita Ray, WLHIV Activist, Texans Living with HIV NetworkKathleen ScutchfieldAndrew Spieldenner, Chair, US People Living with HIV CaucusRavi Krishna Shrestha, Program manager, Saarathi Nepal Patrice St-Amour Research Coordinator, COCQ-SIDADjurica Stankov, AS - Center for the Empowerment Youth of people who are living with HIV and AIDSLars Stephenson, RNLuca Stevenson, International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE)Maria Sundin, Clinical Social Worker, Steering Committee Member of MPactYlang Ta Lawyer, COCQ-SIDAMartha TholanahDejay ToborekJaime Todd-Gher, Legal Advisor, Amnesty InternationalAnna Tokar, ISGlobal, University of Barcelona, SpainWojciech J. Tomczynski, Siec PlusMonique Tula, Oakland, CAJamshed Usmonov, Regional Representative for Sogdia Region, Republic of Tajikistan, NGO "Equal opportunity"Anke Van Dam, AFEW InternationalAxel Vanderperre, Founder - President, UTOPIA_BXLHilary Viens, MSWBernard Vukas, IskorakJason Walker, HIV/AIDS Campaigns Coordinator, VOCAL New YorkAngelica Wendel Sex workerEdwin Philip WetoyiTerry WhiteSteve WignallLiaam Winslet, Colectivo Intercultural TRANSgrediendo Ejay de WitEllen WolfsonGary Paul Wright, Executive Director, African American Office of Gay Concerns Sindy Zemura-Bernard, Founder & Executive Director - Southern Africa Embrace Foundation, Youth Advocate
Questions for IAS:
1. As you know, efforts by the Obama administration and HIV community partners to obtaining exemptions or a waiver on the explicit ban on the entry of people who use drugs and sex workers were unsuccessful in 2012*. Since that time, federal policies and border practices regarding entry have devolved considerably. We recognize that IAS is in dialogue with Democratic elected officials about this issue. However, given the lack of success in this approach during a Democratic administration, what other strategies or measures is IAS taking to ensure the safe and unimpeded entry of all Conference participants?
2. What combination of circumstances and/ or documented reports of barriers to entry and acts of detention or violence would be recognized by IAS as a de facto ban and/or situation of unacceptable potential risk for many people living with HIV and key populations, to the extent that participation in the conference would become unfeasible, unsafe or impossible for significant numbers of ourselves, our colleagues and our community leaders?
3. How has the IAS worked with US-based and international legal experts to evaluate the impact of the United States January 2018 changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual via a memorandum to the consulates and the proposed public charge regulatory changes, as far as their current, ongoing and potential impact on the quantity and qualitative makeup of conference participants? As you may know, the proposed public charge rule considers “costly medical conditions” a negative factor for those seeking entry to the United States. It further requires proof of significant financial holdings. Note that these criteria were used to deny entry to African would-be participants in the March 2018 meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
4. IAS has stated it will not hold the conference in the United States if there is an explicit ban on the entry of people with HIV. While we all hope this will not come to pass, how are you accounting for this possibility as far as contractual obligations, other financial matters, and in your relationships and plans with local and national groups in the United States, in a way that does not hold undue financial risk to IAS and partners if there is a need to alter plans?
5. Given the explicit ban on the entry of people who use drugs and sex workers into the United States, how does or will the IAS advise members of these key populations who seek to attend the conference? Is there an implicit expectation by IAS that members of these communities will misrepresent their past or present lives in order to gain entry? How will IAS provide support and guidance to those who wish to attend without jeopardizing their identity or safety, or IAS itself?
6. Last year, a new federal law went into effect, which criminalizes and applies significant legal penalties to a very broad range of professional and educational activities now considered sex trafficking (known as SESTA/FOSTA, the name of the two companion bills in Congress Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA).What legal counsel has IAS sought or obtained in order to evaluate its activities around AIDS 2020 to ensure that it would not be risking itself or participants given SESTA/FOSTA, which did not exist in the last time the conference was held in the US? As you may know, the Desiree Alliance, a national sex worker rights organization, was compelled to cancel their biannual national sex worker convening in the United States scheduled for 2019, due to its passage.
7. The conference is scheduled to occur right before what is likely to be a highly contentious Presidential election (and in the midst of Political Convention season, a week before the Democratic National Convention). Given the recent politically-based violence seen in the Bay Area and throughout the US, and sustained or increasing violence against people of color, poor people, immigrant groups, and LGBT populations, there is reasonable and real concern for attendees’ safety. What steps will IAS take to ensure the safety of all attendees on and around conference venues?
8. Recognizing the limitations on the ability of people who use drugs and sex workers to be on site or who in principle refuse to participate, what explicit support, resources, and material aid will be given to ensure that these populations are able to gather in settings and in ways of their choosing ?
* In responding to these concerns, the International AIDS Society has frequently compared rates of visa denials from the 2012 U.S. conference with rates of denials from the Toronto conference. However, comparing visa denial rates with Canadian or other locations is not helpful - it is widely known by key populations that it is likely to be unsuccessful, or even dangerous, to attempt to gain entry to the United States, and thus many may not have ever gotten to the point of formal rejection. Further, in 2012, alternative gatherings were organized for sex workers in Kolkata and for people who use drugs in Kiev, in recognition that entering the US was likely to present an insurmountable barrier for these populations to attend the conference.