XVII International AIDS Conference – Christmas in July

The XVII International AIDS Conference is taking place from August 3rd to August 8th in Mexico City. The conference is a place where scientific research on the topic of AIDS is presented, dialogue about the global response to AIDS takes place, and those interested may take part in various workshops adressing different aspects of the issue. The World Youth Alliance has sent a group of staff and interns from our North American and Latin American offices to monitor the AIDS conference and to promote a response to AIDS that recognizes the dignity of the person, and the person as a whole. We hope to promote solutions to the pandemic of AIDS that engender the family in society, build community, protect the especially vulnerable, and procure treatment for those who are infected. The World Youth Alliance believes it is through the broadest recognition and respect for the intrinsic and inviolable dignity of the human person that the international community will succeed in supporting the integral development of all persons and addressing this grave epidemic.

The WYA staff and interns have been taking notes and sending back periodic dispatches from the AIDS Conference. Let’s see what they have to say…

Day 1 (Sunday, August 3)

Yesterday was registration day for the International AIDS conference, and we, the World Youth Alliance participants, arrived at the Centro Banamex conference center bright and early to avoid long lines. It was quite thrilling; we got a big blue bag full of all kinds of loot, which we patiently waited upon returning to the WYA house to peruse. It was like Christmas morning here, except Santa was United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the gifts were everything from male condoms to…female condoms. In all fairness, aside from condoms, UNAIDS did throw in a CD Rom – though it was entitled “The Condom Project.” (Condoms…is there anything they can’t do? Any problem they can’t solve? Apparently not.)

Note…Clare is being sarcastic. World Youth Alliance does not think condom use should be promoted as the only response to the AIDS crisis.

Day 2 (Monday, August 4)

Today I found myself attending what is my second International AIDS conference. It is much easier the second time around. I think some of the staff had a bit of wind knocked out of their hope-filled sails today. The shock of inaction and the avoidance of pressing issues in the face of a global pandemic of such gravity is not (and should never be) an easy pill to swallow. The dream of lectures and symposiums that would actually grapple with the large issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and examine the impediments to realizing the conference’s theme of “Universal Access for All” was quickly gone with the wind-or should I say music-as we witnessed the Daspu Fashion Show debuting the men and women (am I allowed to use those terms anymore? genders?) of Davida-a Brazilian association of sex workers.

While the pulse of the Brazilian club music emanating from their performance did move me physically, I found myself more emotionally moved upon reflection of those living with AIDS or those who have experienced AIDS in their families and their communities. I felt ashamed by the enormous crowd of men and women cheering on these dancers as they stripped and teased the audience, and the irrelevance and irreverence of this performance at such a conference.

Let me assure you, however (so that in the future, interest in attending these International AIDS Conferences with the WYA will not suffer) that there were many more highlights from today that I have not had the time to re-tell. There are so many good people here dedicating their lives to the alleviation of those suffering from HIV/AIDS. While I did speak with a lubricant inventor, I also met a Buddhist monk and an East Indian nun. The highlight of the evening was an address by Mr. William J. Clinton. He was received with generous applause and a standing ovation. Admittedly, it was well deserved as his talk was a refreshing treat, addressing not only condoms-but behavior change; not only condoms-but pre and ante-natal care for mothers; not only condoms-but testing; not only condoms-but Anti Retro Viral treatment for those suffering from AIDS. I am hopeful that this will be the first of many such talks and many wonderful encounters to come at this conference. If you’re still with me…stay tuned.

Clare Halpine – World Youth Alliance

Clare, we are certainly with you, and the sarcasm is not lost on us. Keep them coming.