21st International AIDS Conference opens in Durban

19 July 2016

The 21st International AIDS Conference opened on 18 July in Durban, South Africa. Under the theme “Access equity rights now,” the conference echoes UNAIDS’ call to leave no one behind and provide comprehensive HIV services to everyone in need.

AIDS 2016 brings together some 18 000 delegates from 183 countries to work to strengthen not only HIV treatment, prevention, care and support programmes, but also the commitment to evidence-informed HIV research, overcoming the marginalization of vulnerable populations, challenging discriminatory laws and championing a community-centred and rights-based response to HIV.  

The conference was officially opened on Monday evening by South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, United Nations Messenger of Peace and actress Charlize Theron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, AIDS 2016 Co-Chairs Olive Shisana and Chris Beyrer and Nkhensani Mavasa of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign.

During the opening ceremony, Mr Ramaphosa presented Mr Sidibé with an award recognizing his contribution to South Africa’s progress in the AIDS response.

AIDS 2016 is set to emphasize the need to build partnerships, promote community mobilization to hold leaders accountable and ensure that HIV is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In addition, the conference will, as always, provide a showcase for experts to present new research findings, scientific developments and best practices in programme implementation.

During the coming days there will be myriad opportunities for sharing knowledge, ideas and good practices through plenary discussions, abstract presentations, symposia, skills-building workshops, attendance at the Global Village community space and numerous independent events.

AIDS 2016 runs from 18 to 22 July.  


“In 2000, people came here demanding respect, rights and dignity. They came to demand access to HIV services. It is fitting, on Nelson Mandela Day, that we are back in Durban to challenge the world again.”

Michel Sidibé UNAIDS Executive Director

“HIV is not only transmitted by sex. It is transmitted by sexism, racism, poverty and homophobia. If we are going to end AIDS, we must cure the disease in our hearts and minds first.”

Charlize Theron United Nations Messenger of Peace

“As long as new HIV infections continue to occur and HIV services are denied, it is too soon to declare victory. This is one fight and we are all in it together. Let us use AIDS 2016 to bring our movements together.”

Chris Beyrer International AIDS Society President and AIDS 2016 International Chair

“We [civil society] are not the enemy here—complacency and corruption are. We cannot reach the 90–90–90 targets if we turn a blind eye to corrupt leaders around the world.”

Nkhensani Mavasa Treatment Action Campaign