“If you are uncomfortable in the room then you are in the right place” – Reflections on anti-racism and decolonizing global health from the International AIDS Conference in Montreal
By guest contributors Ayoade Alakija, Winnie Byanyima, Vuyiseka Dubula-Majola, Madhukar Pai; Christine Stegling, Steve Letsike, Lazenya Weekes-Richemond, Lola Abayomi, Leigh-Anne-Agnew, Divya Bajpai, Kreena Govender, Yumnah Hattas, Mumtaz Mia, Tabita Ntuli, and Orosmani Gonzales-Romero
For the first time in its history, the International AIDS Conference (#AIDS2022) – the largest gathering of HIV and AIDS experts and activists – hosted a satellite session, focusing on institutional racism and decolonizing global health.
The Canadian government and the International AIDS Society (IAS), organizers of these bi-annual conferences including AIDS2022, held in Montreal, Canada, received heavy and apt criticism for the often complex, traumatic and humiliating visa application processes, visa denials as well as the exorbitant travel and conference registration costs which blocked hundreds of delegates, mainly from the Global South, from participating in the conference in person. All African panelists for the satellite session on stigma related to HIV in clinical settings were forced to participate virtually, due to visa denials and/or high participation costs inciting Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-Chair of the African Union’s Vaccine Alliance, to tweet a picture of the empty chairs stating “A picture is worth a thousand interviews. Here’s the @AIDS_conference news segment right here. No more words needed.”