The ASHM team’s reflections on the July conference season

August 21, 2023

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Towards the end of July, a contingent of ASHM staff made the trek up to Brisbane for a series of back-to-back conferences. Starting with the International HIV Coinfection and Viral Hepatitis Elimination Conference (IHCVHEC) and the Indigenous Peoples Conference on HIV and Hepatitis Health Equity, followed by the International AIDS Society 12th Conference on HIV Science and wrapping up with the 3rd Australasian COVID-19 Conference.

With our conferences and events teams holding IHCVHEC and the COVID-19 conferences, collaborating with UQ Poche on the Indigenous Peoples’ Conference, and ASHM acting as local partner to IAS23 – it’s safe to say it was a busy week.

Now that the team have had a chance to recover, we asked a handful of those who attended to share their highlights.

For Project Manager Adrienne Hoare, the opportunity to present ASHM’s poster on a needs assessment for hepatitis B clinical auditing and case-finding – her first ever poster presentation – was a standout.

“The poster tours were a great way to hear of the work our colleagues have been doing in the sector, and to share success, challenges and learnings,” she said.

“Plus, a fantastic way to connect with delegates who wanted to know more about our projects.”

Similarly for Karen Salter, Pacific and Timor-Leste Program Manager in the ASHM Global Division, the opportunity to connect with people face-to-face – including the 26 delegates we welcomed as part of the Asia-Pacific Conference Scholarship Program – was hard to beat.

“It was fantastic to be able to meet and reconnect with so many colleagues from Asia and the Pacific at IAS23, particularly the ASHM scholarship recipients,” said Salter.

“A personal highlight was watching the relationships between the scholarship recipients strengthen as they identified their common challenges and discussed solutions.”

Plus, with so much news coming out of the conference season, the new U=U guidance out of the World Health Organization (WHO) was an important take away for Salter.

“Another highlight was the Zero Risk statement from WHO – now to spread the message to ensure that all people living with HIV know their status, can access treatment, and can know their viral load!” 

For HIV Project Officer Joshua Borja, taking part in the global U=U roundtable – running concurrently to IHCVHEC – was invigorating.

“The highlight of my conference season would have to be taking part in the U=U global roundtable as a notetaker,” he said.

“To be in a room buzzing with energetic discussion with leaders in the HIV sector on what needs to change to further embed the U=U message was inspirational.”

The feeling of inspiration was common among the ASHM team. For Policy and Public Affairs Manager Ben Riley, this was amplified by the global connectivity of the conferences.

“The most exciting thing about being at an international HIV conference like IAS 2023 is getting to see how ASHM’s work is part of the global HIV response. I got to speak about ASHM’s Consensus Statement on Person-Centred HIV Care at an IAS forum, where I learned from health workers from around the world about the amazing things they’re working on.”

All in all, the conferences were an opportunity to engage with local and global best practice in our sector and importantly, to reconnect with peers and colleagues from around the world. They were a fantastic reminder of the passion of our sector, and an energising reminder of the work that remains to be done.

For those who came to one of our conferences or visited one of our booths, it was great to connect with you! We hope to see some of you at the Australasian Sexual and Reproductive Health conference in September.

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