It’s the last day of the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa and I’ve been reflecting on this unforgettable experience. 20,000 researchers, clinicians, government officials, activists and royalty from around the world have been here all week, focused on one goal: Ending AIDS by 2030. And, depending who you ask, we may or may not be on target to reach that. One thing is for sure: AIDS is a global issue that intersects public health, politics, economics, human rights and more. During the Opening Plenary speech, South African actress and AIDS activist Charlize Theron said “HIV is not transmitted by sex. HIV is transmitted by sexism, racism and homophobia” and during the sessions and workshops over the last 7 days, I learned that could not be more true.
I attended forums on stigma, gender norms, transgender health, research methods, drug pricing and the relationship between HIV and tuberculosis. I learned about prevention techniques in Lesotho, pre-exposure prophylaxis adherence in the United States, human rights abuses following the HIV Act of 2014 in Uganda, and community building amongst sex workers in Lima, Peru. I met a transgender researcher from Nairobi, a Fulbright scholar from San Francisco, an AIDS activist from the Ukraine and a professor of sociology from my own school in New York City. I’ve been motivated about my own upcoming study in Uganda and I’ve also been able to lay the groundwork for proposing research next year in Kenya.
And now one week after arriving in South Africa, I’m exhausted! Luckily, I have a little time to relax and enjoy South Africa before I head to Uganda. Tomorrow I’ll be travelling to Johannesburg and checking out effects of this post-apartheid city. Early next week, I’ll leave South Africa to visit one of the natural wonders of the world: Victoria Falls, right on the border of Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
You can follow my travels or read synopsis of some of the sessions I attended on my twitter stream at @HealthLGBTQ