Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The way we were - and the way we should be

STEVEN WAKEFIELD writes: This blog reads best with a Gladys Knight and the Pips singing “The Way We Were” in the background. Especially the lyrics: Can it be that it was all so simple then, Or has time rewritten every line, And if we had the chance to do it all again, Tell me, would we? Could we?

Today at the R4P HIV conference there was a wonderful session of six ten minute presentations under the topic “Good Participatory Practice In HIV Prevention.” These sessions provided an excellent follow-up to the plenary talks this morning “Targeting Biomedical Preventions to Different At-Risk Populations”.

We heard some clear suggestions on how GPP had been used to expand and extend community engagement. Each presenter noted specific examples of practical utilization of these principles. Unfortunately there was little time to note three important factors: 1) The relationships that lead to successful GPP implementation are best actualized when scientific leadership provides resources (sufficient dollars, rand, euros…) to hire and trust staff to navigate relationships.
 2) Persons must be trained after they express a willingness to serve science and scientific endeavors on behalf of their communities. They give an incredible amount of time and energy in love for their communities and in as responding volunteers to improve life locally. 
3) The shaping of the science of prevention requires a dialogue that results in better understanding for community and researchers but also demands willingness to discover new paths forward as both roles work for better life.

It is not just about the proper conduct of science. It is not just about fighting a virus. Back in the 80s as we marched on the steps of City Hall in Chicago, Dr. Renslow Sherer asked “is this a rally about HIV/AIDS, human rights, sexual freedom or what?” I answered “yes”. GPP ensures we all work for a better human experience in the face of a virus that continues to mystify.

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