It is incredibly overwhelming to think of all the damage done by the complexity and vast reach of AIDS. It is hard to find a person left in this world, even unknowingly or indirectly, who cannot be said to be affected by the virus. It has crippled countries, devastated lives and robbed people of their dignity, childhood and human rights. The XVII International AIDS conference is the symbol to represent the immensity of the human response to the virus. Politicians, scientists, social workers, doctors, women, sex workers, government/NGO reps, and youth gather for five days to try to network and better respond to the virus that has killed more than 25 million people. It is in this gathering, representing the millions responding courageously, that an individual can find hope.
Dr. Peter Piot (Exec. Director of UNAIDS) spoke at AIDS 2006 in Toronto and in Mexico City of the next 25 years of AIDS- recognizing that although we have come so far- we have a far way to go.
What can sustain us, especially youth, through this journey?
I believe the answer lies in 3 elements of this conference:
1) Knowledge- I began learning about AIDS in elementary school and have only yet learnt the tip of the iceberg. The AIDS conference involves over fourty concurrent sessions in any given hour following topics diverse as twelve floors of a university library. The more one learns- the more you know it is possible to overcome what lies ahead.
2) Dedication- In this conference, I am surrounded by thousands of delegates from around the world who dedicate every morsel of energy, every heartbeat and thought to ensuring that they face the challenges of AIDS whether it be the poverty grown by the affects of the virus, stigma generated by people’s indiffernce and ignorance, or the elusive nature of the virus itself.
3)Hope- In the opening ceremony, 12-year-old Keren Dunaway Gonzalez, who has been living with the virus spoke about her dreams and belief in her future. Ten years ago, I don’t believe it would have been fathomable for her to have these dreams or even be alive. Today, she spoke of the next 25 years as well–it was a speech of hope. Hope is not simply to be relegated to Hallmark cards and rhetoric of presidential hopefuls but a strong necessity if we are to face the future of this global pandemic with convictions.
HIV/AIDS is overwhelming to think of by the immensity of its damage however I find comfort in the immensity of the human response.
YCI Represents in Mexico City.
AIDS 2008 Delegate Blog, Danny Richmond
XVII AIDS CONFERENCE, MEXICO CITY