This week I was in Durban, South Africa where I had the privilege to attend the twenty-first International AIDS Conference. This conference brings together the most amazing forces in the fight against HIV and AIDS. A lot of presentations and speeches stood out for me at this event, but here are my top ten actions which went a long way in ensuring that the messages they represent were recognized:
1. The sex worker’s clock during Opening Ceremony
Everyone who attended the Opening Ceremony remembers the woman with the red umbrella and the man holding the clock. They constantly reminded the presenters that even though they were making important points, they had forgotten to mention an at risk population, the sex-workers. A lot of the speakers did end up mentioning sex workers, some sooner than others!
2. The bra stunt against Roche
Another key highlight was a group of activists who took a stand against the exorbitant prices which Roche, a diagnostics company was charging for medicines assisting with breast cancer. The activists, men, and women, joined hands to demand a human face to drug pricing!
3. The 7,000 person march for increased funding for AIDS
Treatment Action Campaign mobilized over 7,000 people from all over the world to join hands and demand increased government expenditure and recommitment from the Global Fund for AIDS funding. South Africa’s Deputy President came out to receive their memorandum.
4. Condom dresses
Correct, consistent use, and accessibility of condoms to all persons was emphasized by these condom couture dresses designed by Adriana Bertini. They drew a lot of attention in the exhibition hall and reminded everyone passing by of the importance of using protection.
5. The Community health workers graveyard
This one almost brought me to tears. The graveyard celebrated, drew attention to, and commemorated all the unsung heroes who lost their lives serving humanity as volunteer community health workers. You never really think of these champions until the graveyard shocks you as you pass by.
6. The artwork on young girls to stand against early pregnancy
To stand against early pregnancies and draw attention to the work which needs to be done to prevent this, the organisation RIATT-ESA used art. They recruited teenage volunteers who moved around the exhibition hall with artistic images of babies painted on their bodies. Believe me when she passed by you, you always asked what this campaign was about.
7. The condom dress
8. What women want stunt
Women also took a stand for their own rights through this captivating stunt. They used female condoms, and women’s underwear with a message demanding women’s voices in whatever solutions governments, civil society, and communities come up with for problems affecting women.
9. Stop discrimination tree
Discrimination still stands out as a huge problem in the fight against HIV and AIDS. People are still afraid to come out and talk about the problems they face because of the stigma associated with AIDS. This message tree was a goodwill action that saw many people writing down solidarity messages to people living with HIV and AIDS.
10. The imprisonment of sex-workers
Last but not least was a stunt where women role-played as sexworkers and were placed in a cage. This was used to illustrate some of the horrible laws that affect sex work around the world.
Walking away from this year’s conference, I am filled with hope of the possibility that maybe one day soon, we will see the end of AIDS. People everywhere are doing their best to ensure that there is adequate funding, zero discrimination, and accessibility of not only life saving drugs, but also information which will reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS.