For many people living with HIV – the International AIDS conference is not only a time of networking and accessing/sharing information, successes and challenges around HIV – it is also a space to connect with a global family of activists who work on HIV, TB and a handful on malaria.

Women4GlobalFund spoke with a few colleagues at the end of AIDS 2016 about their thoughts around how the conference had addressed gender equality, what more needed to be done and the key issues they take away from the conference.

Florence Anam (ICW Global Kenya), Advocacy and Communications Manager

Florence- PhotoHow was AIDS 2016 and how do you think gender equality was addressed?
I appreciated the number of plenary sessions (not specifically addressing gender inequality) that addressed gender equality as an essential factor in the AIDS response and this conference demanded achieving gender equality and holding governments accountable. These commitments were made through linkages between women and broader issues on financing and research, such as asking for the right data around women and girls and holding governments accountable to start to address data gaps that can inform useful and responsive decisions that can have an impact on the lives of women and girls. Of course it is these global decisions that affect how the Global Fund operates in what it ensures countries are reporting on.

What could have been better?
The nuances around gender equality could have had more visibility. There are many young people and others who are not normally in these spaces and I wonder if people really grasped that gender equality is more than just something to do with men and women. We are lacking data and systems and the capacity to link gender equality to health beyond just collecting data. I feel like ‘achieving gender equality’ is the new benchmark but many are still confused about how to get to achieve this.

What more needs to be done moving forward?
We need to bring people with us as gender champions and expand ownership of gender equality – making people more aware of gender dynamics and bringing men on board so that they also see this as ‘their’ issue. How do we ensure men understand that achieving gender equality is not only an issue for them because they have a daughter or a wife but that this is good for everyone?

What’s your next step when you go home?
First I want to sleep! We have learnt so much and I need time to process it all. This was my first conference and I leave hopeful. Secondly I would love to spend the next few months sharing with the many people who didn’t come into the conference all the lessons I have learned; communicating lessons, catalysing challenges for moving forward and identifying ways that women and girls can better be involved in HIV response.

What one thing did you learn in AIDS 2016?
To be useful in the AIDS response we need to get out of our comfort zones and make connections between HIV and other development issues such as TB, security, economy and social issues. As networks we stick to our own community but we need to partner with other networks to push for more funding for HIV, TB and even malaria – to be innovative and frame AIDS in the context of global security and link this to environment issues – for example – how do issues around security and climate change affect adherence?

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Florence Riako Anam has a Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) degree from Maseno University and is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Community Health and Development from Great Lakes University (GLUK). She has more than 6 years’ experience actively working in HIV and AIDS programs in Kenya and has hands on skills working in collaboration with partners to strengthen public, private and community based response through Advocacy and Communication as well as program design, implementation, evaluation and documentation. Ms. Anam is a member of The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) and a seasoned advocate with years of community engagement in international advocacy representing women living with HIV in discussions on issues such as maternal health, sexual and reproductive health rights, equality, and social justice and expanded economic and education access for women and girls. Ms. Anam is currently the Senior Manager Advocacy and Communication at ICW global office based in Nairobi, Kenya. She was most recently the Advocacy and communications Officer at the National Empowerment Network of PLHIV in Kenya (NEPHAK) where she managed the advocacy portfolio as well as community health engagement activities as the liaison between PLHIV communities and MOH.