“We are more than 7 billion people on this planet; we surely don’t and can’t have one way of having sexual intercourse. Our diversity is our wealth. Our sexuality as human beings is not supposed to be defined by the available prevention tools but all the HIV prevention tools have to be adapted to our sexuality.”

 Alliance is an IRMA advocate who grew up in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. She since moved to Kigali, Rwanda where she has worked and studied, and is currently pursuing a public health degree in Sweden. She is actively involved in the discussions around HIV prevention research.

Alliance’s primary advocacy has been centered on female empowerment and prevention tools which could prevent penile-vaginal transmission, but she has become increasingly interested in the need for rectal microbicides as well. While involved in efforts to engage civil society organizations in medical male circumcision rollout, she became more aware of different sexual practices- particularly anal intercourse. She then heard of IRMA at the Microbicides 2010 conference in Pittsburgh and decided to become an advocate to meet others with a similar interest in rectal microbicides. She has been satisfied beyond her expectations!

Alliance advocates for both male and female use of rectal microbicides. Recently she had what she calls a “wake up call” while talking with a few African women who indicated they really enjoyed anal intercourse. Previously she had believed that women only did this to please their male partners. This exchange reinforced her understanding that women all over Africa need rectal microbicides in order to help prevent HIV.

Alliance attended IRMA’s Project ARM – Africa for Rectal Microbicides meeting in Addis Ababa this past December, in conjunction with ICASA, and was excited about the opportunity for everyone there to shape the advocacy and research agenda for rectal microbicides in Africa. She hopes Project ARM will help to dispel the marginalization and discrimination towards those who practice anal intercourse in Africa.

Her advice for HIV prevention advocates is to keep expanding our prevention toolbox. She believes that if you are truly committed to ending HIV, why wouldn’t you stand up for rectal microbicides? If we continue talk about them whenever we can, it will help lessen the stigma, and each time you may be saving someone’s life. She hopes IRMA can reach out to more policy makers, researchers, and advocates so that they know about rectal microbicides and can add them to their discourse and agenda.

In her free time she enjoys reading, watching TV, and spending time with friends and family.

Thanks Alliance for all that you do!

[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article’s content, whether in support or in opposition.]