GNP+ signs on to U=U, gets warm reaction

Published 12, Feb, 2018
Author // Bob Leahy - Publisher

Fences were being mended as the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) announced last week its full endorsement of the “Undetectable equals Untransmittable” (U=U) campaign. Bob Leahy speaks to the principals.

GNP+ signs on to U=U, gets warm reaction

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."

About the Author

Bob Leahy - Publisher

Bob Leahy - Publisher

Award-winning blogger Bob Leahy first made his social media mark a decade ago on LiveJournal.com where there are still to this day almost 3,000 entries of his available to be read. He was a featured blogger on Ontario’s HIVStigma.com campaign, along with PositiveLite.com founder Brian Finch. He joined PositiveLite.com at its inception in 2009 and became it's Editor a year later.

Born in the UK, Bob’s background is in corporate banking, which he gladly left in 1994, after being diagnosed with HIV the previous year.  He has chaired the board of PARN (Peterborough AIDS Resource Network) and has been an executive board member of both the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) and the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS).  He was inducted in to the Ontario AIDS Network’s Honour Roll in 2005.  Bob is currently a member of Ontario’s GMSH (Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance). He also writes for TheBody.com.

In 2012, Bob was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for his work and commitment to HIV/AIDS in Canada.

Bob continues to write for this site while in the Positivelite.Com editor’s seat, with a particular interest  in HIV prevention, theatre and the arts in general. He is accredited media for a number of Toronto theatres. He lives in Warkworth, Ontario with his partner of thirty-two years and three dogs.