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The Opening Ceremony: First, a rant…there is a history to AIDS and Sunday night in Washington that history was reconstructed. It was reconstructed as one of common cause and compassion, driven by our collective faiths and heritage and the deluded notion that we have all been in this together, fighting the good fight, supporting each other in some sort of quasi evangelical quest for social justice, wherein we are blind to difference and saved by science and gods.
Every International AIDS Conference has its own local flavour, and that is appropriate; I know I am in America, a land far less cynical and irreligious than my own. But I am here, I was told, because of the fight. And I am here, I was told, because of my faith. Fighting together, fighting AIDS, fighting discrimination, fighting the naysayers who don't think treatment is prevention, who don't think we are all the same in some god's eyes. Fight on brothers and sisters! I am accompanied, I was told, by my brothers and sisters of faith, walking into the light of an AIDS free generation. An Elder of the local indigenous people waved a feather at me and a preacher called me a crusader; call me ungrateful but I resent having my motivations, my reasons for why I work in this field, presumed and attributed to someone else's idea of what makes this meaningful.
Again, I was told that I am "standing at a unique point in history", "at a defining moment". Oh, really? ... Still? ... These people have been telling me that I am standing at a unique point, 'facing a (perpetually) closing window of opportunity' for over twenty years now. When exactly is that window of opportunity going to shut? The mood of this conference would not be one of diminishing opportunity; quite the opposite, there would be more optimism of 'cure' and truly achieving an AIDS free generation than ever before. But this does not, it seems, suit the drama and theatrics of an opening night ceremony, devoted to the drama of AIDS.
The Mayor of this fair town assured me that 'AIDS knows no boundaries and crosses borders at will'. Well, yes sir, it does but the fact is it stays where it likes, stays where it meets least resistance and while it might occasionally cross into the leafy streets of Georgetown or Dupont Circle, it actually has taken up residence in your beltway and Black neighbourhoods with a vengeance that should shame you. Fact is, you have a better chance of accessing testing, getting into care and onto treatment and staying in care and on treatment in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea than you do if you are Black and gay, Black and injecting, Black and selling sex, Black and transgender, Black and any or all of the above, and you live in this city. Several presentations at this conference would show us data demonstrating this. But I digress, turns out the Mayor is "personally committed to finding a cure".