The unsung heroes of the International AIDS Conference
The 19th International AIDS Conference is drawing to a close and it is time for us as delegates to reflect on what messages we are going to take away from the conference. More importantly, what are we going to do differently to create the impact to help reduce new HIV infections, HIV-related deaths, and stigma and discrimination?
Today, before the closing ceremonies, there will be a feedback session which will outline the highlights of the conference. This is a session not to miss, because it is impossible to attend all desired sessions, and provides an organised and useful way to make sense of what has happened throughout the course of the Conference.
There is so much more the conference has had to offer. The global village is a space open to unregistered delegates and numerous organisations to display and talk about their work on HIV. The village also has networking zones where various sessions were being held, as well as a market, food stalls, and art exhibits. It is a vibrant part of the conference and plays a critical role in supporting people to learn about what is happening at the grassroots, and making connections with others doing similar work. I have probably spent more time in this space than I have anywhere else!
The volunteers here have been exceptional – pleasant, helpful and present at every corner. There are technicians who work the sound systems, cleaners, builders of the stalls, security guards and people taking notes in each session, among others. It is amazing to watch the machinery of people working to make the Conference run smoothly, both in front and behind the scenes. They have done an amazing job and I personally applaud them.
The 20th International AIDS Conference has already been scheduled and its organisation already under way in Melbourne, Australia, for 2014. Two years seems like a long time but the conferences seem to be happening much more quickly than the used to, and before you know it another one has come around. Of course, many questions remain about how useful they are, but individuals have to answer this question for themselves. It would be helpful if there was a session at each conference just for interventions, individual or collective, that happened due to a previous conference. But whatever happens, organising them must be a monumental task that can’t be underestimated but is very much appreciated.
Winnie Ssanyu Sseruma is an Advocacy and Networks Officer for the Community Health & HIV team at Christian Aid. Winnie has also been living with HIV for almost 25 years.Tagged in: AIDS, discrimination, health, HIV, stigma
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