The HIV and AIDS Pandemic 40 years on

September 13, 2021

The HIV and AIDS Pandemic 40 years on: Ireland’s Response—Nationally and Internationally

Date: Thursday, September 30,  2021

Time: 1:00pm -2:30 pm Irish Time


View Event Recording


This event is hosted by: Irish Aid, Irish Global Health Network, and Concern Worldwide

2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the start of the World’s AIDS pandemic in 1981. Join us as we reflect on the past 40 years of combatting the disease and prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. What is being done to address the health threat of the ongoing epidemic in Ireland and the wider world in the context of COVID? What steps are being taken to counter the response to the ongoing stigma and ignorance that still surrounds those living with HIV? What is the role of government, state agencies and NGOs and what is the focus of their ongoing work? What can we learn from the experience of those living with HIV and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa and their approach to supporting those living with the disease? How can we effectively confront inequalities and engage communities around the world to end the epidemic of HIV and AIDS by 2030?


Nadine Ferris-France: Executive Director, Irish Global Health Network
Breda Gahan: Senior Health and HIV Adviser, Concern Worldwide


  • Laurel Sprague, Head of UNAIDS Community Engagement Division, Geneva

With almost three decades of experience in the HIV response, Laurel’s focus has been on the empowerment and leadership of networks of people living with HIV and key populations, working with and within these networks to address stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, criminalization, and representation in decision-making spaces.

In her role as the head of the UNAIDS Community Engagement division, Dr. Sprague leads the work to increase political commitment to scale up community-led HIV responses in service delivery, advocacy, monitoring, and research. Laurel is based in Geneva Switzerland.


  • Noel Donnellon, Filmmaker and Photographer,  ACT UP, Dublin.

Noel is a filmmaker and photographer and has worked worldwide. He is a member of ACT UP Dublin and has completed courses in HIV Science, Emerging and Re-emerging Viruses both through the Institute Pasteur and HIV/TB through Médecins Sans Frontières Southern Africa Medical Unit. Dublin born and a graduate of Dún Laoghaire College of Art and Design (now IADT) he has worked globally in the film business since 1992 in various roles and has worked alongside Stephen Spielberg, Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan to name a few. His documentary film work has brought him to such countries as Kenya, Rwanda, Democratic of Congo, Pakistan, Sweden, USA and many more. Noel recently co-directed and photographed ‘Shame//Less’ a filmed response to the study ‘Culture and Sexual Risk: An Ethnographic Analysis of Gay Male “Sexual Worlds” in Ireland Today’ which premieres at GAZE Film Festival.


VICE ‘The Only Gay Sexual Health Clinic in Ireland Has Been Closed for the Whole Pandemic’: 

U=U Micromedia campaign with Masc.Life : 

Ireland needs better sex education and government action: Dazed Magazine 


  • Ronan Sweeney, Development Specialist  Officer in the Global Health, HIV and AIDS team in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland.

Ronan is responsible for managing HIV and AIDS partners and contributing to the achievement of the global health objectives as set out in Ireland’s international development policy. He is the Focal Point for Ireland’s tenure on the Board of the Global Fund. He has worked in Asia, Africa and Europe in peacebuilding and in humanitarian and development programming.




  • Sbongile Nkosi, Co-Executive Director of Global Network of People Living with HIV, South Africa.

Sbongile is an award-winning journalist, organisational leader, and advocate for social change. She has worked for Treatment Action Campaign and was the first black woman to lead a health news agency (Health-e News Service) in South Africa. For 10 years, she worked as a public health and social justice journalist, project planner, manager, coordinating NGO campaigns for health and social justice.  Among her specialisations, Sbongile has worked in strategic movement analysis and building grassroots power to drive change.

  • James Njuguna – Education & HIV Programme Manager in Concern Worldwide, Kenya

James is an educationist with 19 years’ experience in programming with most vulnerable children in urban informal settlements and arid lands – 10 years in HIV&AIDS and nine in basic education. He participated in a HIV and AIDS and Development Project that culminated in a national HIV and AIDS multisectoral response and enactment of guidelines for programming for most vulnerable children. He has led the adoption of Community Conversations to reduce HIV infection and related stigma and discrimination and development of Study Circles for adolescent development. Since 2015, he has led implementation of a Lifeskills and mentorship intervention that improves girl’s self-confidence and aspiration to learn knowledge of adolescent reproductive health and risk avoidance.




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