“Though linked geographically, there is extreme diversity in the dynamics of transmission of HIV and potential structural interventions to mitigate transmission. Let the local community lead the way in terms of messaging and strategy, and progress will be made while staying on terra firma.”

Stefan Baral is an IRMA advocate from Baltimore, Maryland. He is a physician, epidemiologist and researcher on the faculty of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health focused on creating more community tailored programs, services, and policies for different communities throughout the world.

Stefan first became involved with IRMA while preparing for the Project ARM – Africa for Rectal Microbicides meeting in Addis Ababa this past December, in conjunction with ICASA. He says it was a natural partnership given the communities he works with across Africa, and believes the meeting got a great start on developing a plan for increased advocacy around rectal microbicides and the accessibility of condom-compatible lubricants. He is excited for everything to be moving forward!

He believes rectal microbicides are such a promising new prevention technology due to encouraging evidence from early studies and the likelihood that people would use them. He is hopeful that rectal microbicides will be in the form of a lubricant to increase the chance that people will use them during anal intercourse.

Stefan is also an advocate for other evidence-based prevention strategies. He loves researching them and advocating for those in which he sees potential. Though he believes rectal microbicides will likely be an important prevention strategy moving forward, he says it is crucial to implement services and strategies in the meantime that are already supported by evidence. He also realizes that though advocacy is key in the fight against HIV/AIDS, service provision is just as important to fully serve different communities.
His advice for combatting stigma associated with standing up for rectal microbicides is short, but important: “Focus on the evidence.”

Thanks Stefan, 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.]