“They teach us a little about HIV in school. I mean we had a lesson on the Biology. But we haven’t had any discussion that HIV is actually related to people.”
Today was our first full-on day in the Global Village. And it was BUSY. I personally talked to people from over 30 different countries, all inspirational advocates who tirelessly work to address the multiple facets to the HIV epidemic. From the very kind gentleman from Nicaragua who had set up a shelter for sex workers of all genders to the newly diagnosed blogger who bravely bared his soul and life to the whole world in order to have a clear record of one individual’s journey as a newly diagnosed person coming to grips with a highly-stigmatized virus, I have felt energized, inspired, and humbled by the incredible people I’ve met. And this is only the first day of the conference!!!
I also met two young ladies from the UK, with whom I had a lengthy conversation about their experiences of HIV education in College. They did an incredibly eloquent job of expressing the key issue in HIV education, which I wanted to share. They said: “They teach us a little about HIV in school. I mean we had a lesson on the Biology. But we haven’t had any discussion that HIV is actually related to people.”
Being at this conference, representing Body & Soul and Life in My Shoes, it is incredibly clear that we must continue to remind people that HIV is about people. And this conference is all about people.
One of the things that I find most incredible about the conference is that everyone is here as part of the global effort to address this pandemic, but they are all individuals- with their own stories, own souls- and they have confronted the epidemic in a way that shows what they most care about. Whether it is advocating for the rights of injecting drug users to have access to safe injecting equipment in Moldova or tirelessly working to repeal Norway’s strict HIV criminal codes (in which transmission of any type is illegal), people have connected to this cause profoundly, honestly, and selflessly.
Over the past 24 hours, I have been humbled by the spirit and compassion present in everyone I’ve met. Despite the devastation of the pandemic, it is clear that HIV has created a community of incredible people who are committed to a global response- I count myself lucky to be a part of it.