AIDS 2020 Letter of Concern
Kevin Osborne, Executive Director, International AIDS Society (IAS)
Anton Pozniak, President, IAS and International Chair, AIDS 2020
Adeeba Kamarulzaman, President Elect, IAS
Cynthia Carey-Grant, Local AIDS 2020 Co-chair
Monica Gandhi, Local AIDS 2020 Co-chair

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.

The undersigned

Jim Pickett, for the International Rectal Microbicides Alliance (IRMA), and
Suraj Madoori, for Treatment Action Group (TAG)

in addition to:
(list in formation):

Africans in Partnership Against AIDS(APAA)
African Services Committee
AIDS Community Care Montreal
AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
Alex's Counseling Services
All Under One Roof LGBT Advocates
American Medical Student Association (AMSA)
Amida Care NY
African Sex Workers Alliance -ASWA
AIDS Action Baltimore
Arianna's Center
Asia Catalyst
Asia 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 Drogues
ATHENA Network
Body Positive NZ
Bureau régional action sida, Gatineau
Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)
Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA)
Conigli Bianchi - ARTivists against serophobia
Davida/Daspu/Brazilian Network of Sex Workers
Empower India
European AIDS Treatment Group
Fuckförbundet Swedish sex worker organization
Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA)
Global Network of Sex Work Projects
The Gran Varones
Harm Reduction Coalition
Hawai‘i Health & Harm Reduction Center
Health GAP
HIV/AIDS Albania - Social Media Campaign
HIV Justice Network
Howard Brown Health
Icebreaker Uganda
Idaho Coalition for HIV Health and Safety
International Committee on the Rights of Sex workers in Europe
KIDS & TEENS RESOURCE CENTRE, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria
LaGender Inc
Life Inclusive
Love To Love Organization
Mesa de Concertacion LTGB y TS de Lima Metropolitana
Minority AIDS Council of Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun Counties
Movimiento de Trabajadoras Sexuales del Perú
MPact Global Action for Gay Men's Health and Rights
National Coalition for LGBT Health
National Coalition of PLHIV in India
National Working Positive Coalition
No Dejarse es Incluirse A.C.
Portail VIH/sida du Québec
Positive Action for Treatment Access, Nigeria
Positive Iowans Taking Charge
Positive Leaders Union
Positive Women's Network-USA
Positively Alive Support Network for Gay Men South Africa
Positively Trans
PWN-USA- Louisiana
Project X
Red Umbrella Athens
Red Umbrella Fund
Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association
Sero Project
Sex Work Education and Advocacy Task force
Sex Workers Outreach Project (NSW)
Sex Worker's Rights Advocacy Network
Sisonke Movement
Stella, l'amie de Maimie
STAR-STAR, The first sex worker collective in the Balkans
STRASS Syndicat du Travail Sexuel
Stronger Together - Association for Support of People Living with HIV (Macedonia)
SWOP Behind Bars
TAMPEP Nederland
Transgender Law Center
Trans Sistas of Color Project
Transitions Louisiana
Union des travailleu(r)ses du sexe pour l'indépendance
US People Living with HIV Caucus
Vancouver Island PWA Society (VPWAS)
Velvet December
Warren-Vance Community Health Center, Inc.
Zion House of Prayer

Hamid Moh'd Ali
Richard Panix Amoh-Otu, Youth Alliance for Health and Human Rights (YAHR)
John-Manuel Andriote, Author and Journalist
Gord Asmus, Peer Engagement Coordinator, Local ASO
Dr. Karen Badalyan, Eurasian Key Populations Health Network
Deborah Baron, Doctoral student, Health Behavior Dept at UNC Chapel Hill
Bob Baugher, Ph.D., Psychology Instructor, Highline College
Linda RM Baumann, Strategic Coordinator, Namibia Diverse Women's Association (NDWA)
Janko Belin, društvo AREAL
Lucy Bradley-Springer, PhD, RN, ACRN, FAAN Dr, Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
Alan Brand, Positively Alive
Leslie Braun, RN, Primary Care HIV, Nine Circles Community Health Clinic
Gina Brown, Black woman living with HIV, PACHA member, 2014-2017 (PACHA6)
Reginald Brown, M. Ed., Ambassador, Unity Fellowship of Christ Church NYC
Ulysses Burley III
Scott Burris, Professor of Law and Public Health, Temple University
Ab Buijze
Alejandra Cabral, UCLA
Keiva Lei Cadena, Community Advocate, Hawaii Health & Harm Reduction Center
Bré Anne Campbell, Detroit, MI
Christine Campbell
Christopher M. Cannon, MPH
George M. Carter, FIAR
Erika Castro, MD-PhD
Marco Castro-Bojorquez, Founder, HIVenas Abiertas
Paul Causey, MSM (and Transgender) Asia (Pacific) Google Group
Michael Cecilio
Nazarius Celsus, President, myISEAN
Sophocles Chanos, Head Athens & Thessaloniki Checkpoint, Positive Voice, Hellenic Association PLWHA
Martin Choo, Kuala Lumpur AIDS Support Services Society (KLASS)
Cecilia Chung, San Francisco, CA
Chad Clarke, ADVOCATE/ACTIVIST, Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization
Cyndee Clay, HIPS
Paul Clift
Mavie Collins
Ben Collins, Director, ReShape/International HIV Partnerships
Namakula Nakato Daisy, National Coordinator, Uganda Network of Sex Workers' Organisations (UNESO)
Clair Daney, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Viken Darakjian, Positive People Armenian Network, social NGO
Leigh Davids, South Africa Trans movement
Randy 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, LA
Lynda Dee, Executive Director, AIDS Action Baltimore
Alex DeLakis, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Jacob Distel, Executive Director, Lansing Area AIDS Network
Tri Do, MD, MPH
Kelly Doyle, Executive Director, CARES, Chair, HIV AIDS Alliance of Michigan
Kabine Doumbia
Daniël Du Preez, One Love LGBTIQ+ Community
Alberto Edeza, PhD Student Brown University
Gloria D. Eldridge Professor, University of Alaska Anchorage
Elder Antionettea Etienne, Iris House, Inc. PWN-NYC Chapter, LAISP Church
Jason Farrell, Project Officer, Correlation-European Harm Reduction Network
Stuart Flavell, Conference Organizing Committee member,AIDS 2002-Barcelona, AIDS 2004-Bangkok
Najeeb Ahmad Fokeerbux, Young Queer Alliance
Dr. Carrie Foote, Professor of Sociology, IUPUI, Chair of HIV Modernization Movement-Indiana
Anna Forbes
Tem Freya
Eddie Fukui
Ramon Gardenhire, Vice President of Policy & Advocacy, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Jorge Garrido, Executive Director, APOYO POSITIVO
Jill Gay, Chief Technical Officer, What Works Association
Dr. Eric Glare
Grissel Granados, PACHA Member 2015-2017
Mauro Guarinieri, EATG, EuroNPUD
Gary W. Harper, PhD, MPH, University of Michigan
Tami Haught
Lee Hertel, Lee's Rig Hub
Jemeika Hicks, Resource Specialist, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Ian Hodgson, EATG
David Holtgrave, PhD, Albany, NY
Guido Silvestri, Professor, Emory University
Brian Hudjich, Washington, DC
Christian Hui
Kareem Ibrahim, Student, Allard School of Law
Dr. Mark Ing
Robin Irwin
Shahnaz Islamova, Tais Plus, Kyrgyzstan
Lesherri James
Dr. Qaiser Javed
Mavuto Jawado, FOCCAD
Tian Johnson, African Alliance for HIV Prevention
Lizzie Jordan, Think2Speak
Audu Kadiri, Youth Builders Initiative (YBI)
Brian Kanyemba, Key Populations Prevention Advocate
Pat Kelly, A Family Affair
Irene Keizer, Manager Policy and Grants, Aidsfonds
Alexandra de Kiewit, CAPUD
Paul Kidd
MARK S KING, Activist, My Fabulous Disease
Jeremy Kwan, Gay Advocate and Activist MTAAG+
Raju Lama, Sudur paschim samaj
Samir Lama
Keiko Lane, Marriage and Family Therapist
Denis LeBlanc, Activist, Survivor Living with HIV
Edward Low, Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)
Stirbu Lucia Maria
AlanTimothy Lunceford-Stevens, Activist, End AIDS Now & Let’s Kick ASS NY
Vickie Lynn, MSW, MPH, Doctoral Candidate
Maureen E. Lyon, PhD Clinical Health Psychologist, Children's National Health System
David Malebranche, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Morehouse School of Medicine
John Manwaring, Victoria Dept of Health and Human Services, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Derrick Mapp
William Matovu, HIV Activist, Love To Love Organization
Christina Meade, PhD, Duke University
Brian Minalga, MSW, Seattle, WA, USA
Alex Margery, Executive Chairman, TANEPHA - TANZANIA
Sandro Mattioli, Plus Onlus
Hilary McQuie, MA
Mark Misrok, Executive Director, National Working Positive Coalition
Luckyboy Edison Mkhondwane, Individual
Bright Vuyani Mndaka, Siyakha Isizwe Multi Purpose Centre
Augustus Mokabedi
Jose Joaquin Mulinelli-Rodriguez, Executive Director, Coai, Inc.
Pancho Mulongeni
David Munar, Chicago, IL
Terry McGovern, JD, New York, NY
Veaceslav Mulear, GENDERDOC-M
Chantal Mukandoli, Peer Support Worker Assistance, APAA(African In Partnership Against Aids)
Alex Muller, Professor, University of Cape Town
Kenneth Mwehonge, Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS Uganda)
Mariam Nabukeera, Coordinator, Gender Park-Africa
Deyonce Naris, National Coordinator, Transgender Intersex Androgynous Movement of Namibia (TIAMON)
Toni Newman, Executive Director, St. James Infirmary
Ngoc Nguyen
Olivier 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 Miranda
Jay P. Paul, PhD
John Peller, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Eric Peters, Community Member
Meghan Peterson, Brown University School of Public Health
Shane Anthony Petzer
David M. Phillips, DC Community Coalition for AIDS2012
Rev. Dr. Damon Powell - Artist & Theologian
Mark Randall HIV MSM Educator Worker, PHA
Anna Ratecka, Jagiellonian University
Malcolm Reid, Policy Director, ThriveSS
Anouk Rey, General Manager, Red Pencil
Christina Robinson, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Joseph Saidi, LGBTI activist, LGBTI movement
Cynthia Sanchez, Salt Lake City, UT
Fred Schaich, President, International Foundation for Alternative Research in AIDS
Julie M. Scofield, Former Executive Director & Founder, NASTAD
Reverend J D Scott-Hoffman, Washington Institute of Natural Medicine and Universal Life Church
Mike Selick, Hepatitis C Training and Policy Manager, Harm Reduction Coalition
Sara Semelka, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Neil Self
Aditi Sharma
Karma Sherpa, Executive board, Recovering Nepal
Nelson Mutugi Silas, Executive Director, EMAC-NGO
Eric Smith
Lala Maty Sow, Association And Soppeku
Tasleem J. Padamsee, PhD, College of Public Health, The Ohio State University
WAFFO LELE François Patrick, President, Avenir Jeune de l'Ouest (AJO)
Venita Ray, WLHIV Activist, Texans Living with HIV Network
Kathleen Scutchfield
Andrew Spieldenner, Chair, US People Living with HIV Caucus
Ravi Krishna Shrestha, Program manager, Saarathi Nepal
Patrice St-Amour Research Coordinator, COCQ-SIDA
Djurica Stankov, AS - Center for the Empowerment Youth of people who are living with HIV and AIDS
Lars Stephenson, RN
Luca Stevenson, International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE)
Maria Sundin, Clinical Social Worker, Steering Committee Member of MPact
Ylang Ta Lawyer, COCQ-SIDA
Martha Tholanah
Dejay Toborek
Jaime Todd-Gher, Legal Advisor, Amnesty International
Anna Tokar, ISGlobal, University of Barcelona, Spain
Wojciech J. Tomczynski, Siec Plus
Monique Tula, Oakland, CA
Jamshed Usmonov, Regional Representative for Sogdia Region, Republic of Tajikistan, NGO "Equal opportunity"
Anke Van Dam, AFEW International
Axel Vanderperre, Founder - President, UTOPIA_BXL
Hilary Viens, MSW
Bernard Vukas, Iskorak
Jason Walker, HIV/AIDS Campaigns Coordinator, VOCAL New York
Angelica Wendel Sex worker
Edwin Philip Wetoyi
Terry White
Steve Wignall
Liaam Winslet, Colectivo Intercultural TRANSgrediendo
Ejay de Wit
Ellen Wolfson
Gary 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.

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