There have been many milestones in the two year history of U=U. In Canada, think of when CATIE came on board. Elsewhere, think of when U=U burst onto the world stage, quite literally, at IAS2017 in Paris. Or when the CDC embraced the science and said this, "people who take ART daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner." Or when leading U.S. scientist Anthony Fauci said this: "From a practical standpoint, the risk is zero. So, don't worry about it."
These will all go down as markers in the history of the epidemic. There are many more.
The campaign has racked up over a staggering 550 community partners in 71 countries. Each has been welcomed with open arms. Last week though the buzz amongst industry insiders was immediate and electric as GNP+ announced its support for the campaign. Why such a big deal? Because the relationship between the Prevention Access Campaign (PAC) and Amsterdam-based GNP+ has been a difficult and at times acrimonious one.
PositiveLite.com spoke to GNP+’s Argentinian board chair Javier Hourcade Bellocq about the significance of the two organizations burying the hatchet. “A year ago” he said “the concern that emerged in the discussions was the issue that people living with HIV have different level of access to antiretrovirals and viral load testing. And also within countries, even the most developed ones, there are specific populations that face structural barriers to access. Looking backwards, this has been always a concern of the campaign and the fact that we could all contribute to the same goals from different angles.”
“Misunderstandings happen especially between passionate people... we share the same values and mission.”
“I think, we could all agree” he conceded “this could have been handled differently. I think we are all restless activists that, sometimes unwittingly, communicate with each other with the same passion and vehemence which we use to challenge bad decision makers. And this could result in a mismatch.”
“But, thanks to constructive communications through channels that remained open, and together with colleagues and friends, the discussions and reflections resulted in a clear conclusion: GNP+ should fully endorse and actively support the campaign. Everywhere, we´re all facing a challenging environment in the response to the epidemic, so that´s why we need to join forces, take advantage of the synergies that lead to a change in some of the narratives around us and strengthen the arguments for universal access. We will not achieve “universal access” and “end AIDS”, or something as close as possible to this, if we do not dramatically reduce stigma and discrimination.”
Bruce Richman, who heads the Prevention Access Campaign (PAC) responsible for U=U, agrees “I’m pleased and relieved that GNP+ and the campaign have turned a corner” he told PositiveLite.com. “Misunderstandings happen especially between passionate people. I think as the GNP+ team came to know more about the campaign, they recognized that we share the same values and mission.”
He went on “our greatest strength as a campaign has been our partnerships. Some of our most valuable partnerships are with organizations that weren’t initially on board. We welcome GNP+ with open arms and look forward to working together to ensure this science reaches providers, policy makers, the public and people with HIV accurately and meaningfully.”
Social media comment was equally welcoming
In their press release, GNP+ called attention to the words of the U=U campaign’s third U, Unequal, that appear on its website.
“There are numerous economic, social, structural, and legal barriers that intersect in someone’s life and may make it difficult or impossible to reach an undetectable viral load” it said. “Our challenge for the U=U community is to continue to fight for universal access for all people with HIV regardless of what barriers may exist and regardless of where they may live."