For seven, long, long days I dove into the deep end of the madness that was the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) and various ancillary meetings held in Washington, D.C., last week. It was a mad, mad world of 20,000 plus people from every corner of the planet running to and from non-stop sessions, talks, organizing, networking, marches, protests and talking, talking, talking and noise, noise, noise.
Complete saturation of information, sensory, and emotional overload—by the end my brain felt like a wet sponge that couldn’t take on one more drop. And that says nothing about the DC heat and humidity that made the rest of you soggy as well.
I contributed to that all that talking and organizing and noise, taking advantage of the world’s largest AIDS gathering to help launch a new effort from the global network of more than 1,200 members I chair called IRMA (International Rectal Microbicide Advocates.) We’ve identified the critical need for advocacy around access to safe, condom-compatible lube in Africa as part of our new Project ARM—Africa for Rectal Microbicides initiative. Most Africans don’t have access to safe, condom-compatible lube.
Condoms and no lube is a terrible great combination when it comes to anal sex. Vaginas have the ability to self-lubricate—our anuses and rectums need a little help from a friend to help ease entry and keep the condom intact. Because there is a paucity of appropriate lubricants in Africa, many people who have anal sex are using things like avocado oil, yogurt, Vaseline, even motor oil—or no lube at all.
The Project ARM effort seeks to ensure that Africa is fully engaged in rectal microbicide research and advocacy so that Africans who have anal sex are central to the development of safe, effective, and acceptable rectal microbicides (which may be produced as lubes with anti-HIV qualities.) Late last year, a group of African advocates and allies met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and strategized a set of priority actions to help pave the way for Africa to be on the rectal microbicide map. The highest priority action the group identified was far and away the issue of lube access. Rectal microbicides are about a decade away from being available—lube access needs to happen now … since it’s already too late for yesterday.
*Join IRMA’s robust, highly-active. moderated, global listserv addressing rectal microbicide research and advocacy as well as other interesting new HIV prevention technologies by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Joining our listserv automatically makes you a member of IRMA – a network of more than 1,100 advocates, scientists, policy makers and funders from all over the world.
*Please look for us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/InternationalRectalMicrobicideAdvocates, and you can follow us on Twitter: @rectalmicro.
*Also, please note that shared news items from other sources posted on this blog do not necessarily mean IRMA has taken any position on the article’s content.