Royals and celebrities join forces at 2018 International AIDS Conference

July 30, 2018

The 22nd International AIDS Conference, held this week in Amsterdam, Netherlands, reaffirmed the necessity of global involvement and advocacy in the struggle against the virus. The star-studded event featured several prominent celebrities turned AIDS activists giving speeches solidifying their support for finding a cure.

Delivering some of the ceremonial opening remarks was Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive director. In his speech he included the disproportionate opportunities in lieu of diversity efforts, which ultimately slows down the pace toward meeting goals for 2020. Sidibé's wake-up call echoed the needs for inclusion for everyone in the HIV prevention crisis. 

Newly-married Prince Harry, whose organization Sentebale provides HIV education, HIV prevention tools, and HIV advocacy platforms to eradicate the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. Giving a speech at the Conference, Prince Harry reaffirmed his pledge to destigmatizing the disease.

Along with Sir Elton John, the Prince announced a new billion-dollar campaign, called the MenStar Coalition, that focuses on “tackling the root cause of this problem--the lack of awareness of HIV prevention amongst hard-to-reach young men.” The “global partnership” will include partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Actress and former GLAAD Media Award recipient of the Vanguard Award (2006), Charlize Theron, also attended the conference in Amsterdam to continue her longtime fight against HIV/AIDS and the stigmas that come with it. 

When speaking on the global viewpoint of HIV/AIDS, Theron said, "We have come a long way as a global community from that moral panic that defined early stages of this epidemic." Another royal made an appearance at this year's conference as well. Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau lent her voice and presence to the conference, and even took part in the Towards Zero Together march during that time. 

One major way the Conference pledged to fight was in its decree of the Amsterdam Affirmation, a nine step statement asserting the global commitment to supporting programming, promoting inclusion and amplifying voices to ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalized are not left behind in the HIV response. The Affirmation serves as a rallying cry aiming to show support and solidarity to those most affected by the virus, even on a micro level.

According to the International AIDS Society, female populations, gay men, and marginalized and minority populations are all much more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS due to factors like gender inequalities, lack of education and resources, and lack of legislative protections.