When I got home from Rwanda I wanted to write about the topic of AIDS fatigue. Because this pandemic is massive, hard to wrap your head around, depressing and permiates everywhere, I saw many aid workers who were disillusioned and hopeless about the future of AIDS. I also saw aid workers who were not specifically hopeless, but instead apathetic about this pressing issue. It is the same apathy I see on the faces of most politicians at this conference, and many of the north american attendees.
In my limited experience of North American presenters at this conference, most have been dry, uninspired, numbers-based presentations that lacked any strong message. I sat in the audience in many of them asking, what is your message?? What do you want me to take away from here when we go back into the world, back into the work? I am tired of reading vague recommendations for future actions spouting things like increased communication, collaboration and funding to AIDS without anything to sink your teeth into.
But apathy is far from the feeling I receive from young people here. Young people from all over the world have the passion, the emotion, the vigor to stand up and be honest about what it’s like to live, work and see this pandemic in every moment of the day. They are a bright light – kids, teens and those just beyond. It is this blatent honesty that captures the hope and drive of people in this world; unfortunately it is not statistics, policies or rhetoric. Unless of course the policy is so honest and addresses such a gap that it captivates the attention of the masses (such as the new anti-homophobia campaign of the Mexican government).
Exceptions to the rule of political apathy seem to be Dr. Jorge Saavedra, Dr. Julio Frenk and Former President Bill Clinton. Dr. Saavedra addressed the issue of sex between men (MSM)yesterday in the plenary – an issue never before highlighted to this extent at an international AIDS conference. MSM is the usual untalked about thing that all the speakers seemed to have gotten the memo on before the conference. It is the buzz word that people are akwardly throwing into almost every presentation without the knowledge to back it up. But not Dr. Saavedra, whose knowledge and ability to articulate the issues surrounding MSM with such clarity made me feel ignorant for not having thought through them before, and inspired to now have been taught in such a way.
I’m up early before Day 3 to write this at the hostel. The sun is just rising and I had a long sleep. I have spent some time thinking, where should I fit into this fight? This question has been with me since 2003. I don’t necessarily feel the need to answer, but instead continue to educate myself and be open to possibilities to contribute. This may or may not be my place right now. But I am reassured to see a few strong leaders here – leaders who inspire others to be leaders.