In previous years, each Central American Congress on HIV (CONCASIDA) was characterised by a particular aspect or theme.

The poor participation of community representatives from the various countries in the region was one such theme.

And this year there was a virtual absence of local representatives from Costa Rica, the hosting country of the conference.

The conference has received little publicity and poor visibility in the media.

Oscar Morales, from the HIV/AIDS Department at the Human Rights Attorney General’s Office in Guatemala and member of the Legal Network for Human Rights, said: “We regret the poor participation of community leaders because we are the ones who promote actions and changes before decision makers, government representatives and cooperating agencies.

“This proves a lack of commitment to effectively strengthen community based organisations and involve them as a key actor in the HIV/AIDS response.”

During the opening plenary, Maria Dolores Perez of the Pan American Health Organisation in Honduras presented an in-depth analysis of the bottlenecks that limit the quality of the response for and from women, and stressed the importance of tackling gender violence as a determining factor in acquiring the virus.

She ended her speech by calling to an effective, rational and ethical expenditure in programmes and projects related to the HIV/AIDS response.

“Resources are scarce but please let’s use those that we get, it is a matter of ethics”, she said.

Alberto Stella, UNAIDS Coordinator for Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua spoke on behalf of Cesar Nunez, UNAIDS Regional Director. He went through the progress made on the UNGASS declaration of commitments, focusing on resource mobilisation and implementation challenges.

He pointed out that, in spite of the progress, a lot of work has to be done to strengthen some goals. He also stressed the importance of considering the epidemic as a challenge that needs to be faced with a sound work on Human Rights and citizenship.

During the session focus was made on the feminisation of the epidemic and this generated controversy, because some attendees considered that this focus minimises the effect of HIV/AIDS in other vulnerable populations.

Herbert Hernandez from the National Network for Sexual Diversity and HIV in Guatemala said: “It is unacceptable that some cooperating agencies blur the epidemiologic evidence produced in the region.

“This seems to be a generalised attitude of some stakeholders, when we all know there still are pending issues with the most affected groups.”

This edition of CONCASIDA shows promise as an atypical conference, or at least one very different from its predecessors.

But in spite of everything, it continues to be the most important forum in the region that reunites stakeholders of the HIV/AIDS response. It is our duty that nobody remains indifferent.

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