Photo credits: Shannon Weber

March 25-27, 2015 I had the honor of participating in the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) consultation on PrEP guidelines development.  An extraordinary amount of preparation went into planning the meeting  with a wide range of community and expert participants.  While at these meetings, I had a profound appreciation for the work we’ve done in the U.S. during the last four years to assure that cis women, and now trans women, are included in the HIV prevention conversation and “expanded HIV prevention toolkit” discussion.  Though I am sometimes discouraged by how far we have to go to truly offer women an expanded HIV prevention (or sexual wellness) experience, I realized, during the course of these three days in Geneva, how much we’ve learned and how many barriers we’ve navigated.  So, I bow in gratitude for the time to be in Geneva at these meetings, both to contribute and to provide a mirror of reflection. I also bow in gratitude to the hundreds of women I’ve talked to who’ve shared their stories, desires and dreams, thus providing me with tremendous motivation to champion trans and non-trans women’s inclusion in the HIV prevention conversation.

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I went all the way to Geneva to see my friend Jim Pickett of AIDS Foundation Chicago quoted by Mitchell Warren.  Jim, you are a legend!   Here is a slide by the WHO organizers summarizing our conversations for moving forward, in agreement that women, including transwomen, must be included in future guidelines and recommendations.

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Finally, my mind was completely blown by the amazing individuals representing sex worker networks in India and across Africa. I felt a powerful kinship with their sisterhood and know that we must bring the privilege and options of a female controlled HIV prevention method to this communities.  Who knows better than sex worker activists on how to be inclusive? These groups have long included women, transwomen, and men as equals as they have worked toward decriminalization, access to health care and training. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

 

Shannon Weber is Hive’s director, founder of PleasePrEPMe.org, a frequent love note writer, and mom to three teens.