Leaving AIDS 2008 with mixed emotions

Homeless people protest at AIDS 2008

Homeless people protest at AIDS 2008

Contributor: Natalia Cales

As I prepare to leave the IAC in Mexico City, I have many thoughts running through my mind. Overall, I had a wonderful opportunity to network and meet amazing people from around the world who are working towards meaningful change in the “HIV/AIDS World”.

Everyone who attended the conference brought a different focal point to the theme, Universal Action Now! I witnessed several protest demonstrations by different activist groups, including homeless people with HIV, transgender individuals, gay and lesbian rights, Dance 4 Life, people against PEPFAR, youth living with AIDS, etc.

Despite being surrounded by a lot of empowering people, I am leaving the conference with mixed emotions about the future of HIV and AIDS.

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Natalia Cales reflects on AIDS 2008

vblog by Natalia Cales

Reflections on the XVII International AIDS Conference…

AIDS 2008: Youth participation has increased, says Alischa

vblog by Natalia Cales

I interviewed Alischa, 28, from Australia who shares her experience as a young woman who has attended five International AIDS Conference. This is a summary of what she says: “Youth participation has grown… when I first went to an International AIDS Conference eight years ago, there was hardly a handful of young people, we were a minority. A lot of people have worked hard to change that… there are 1000 young people this year, not just attending but participating, leading change, asking leaders to make real commitments…”

African-Americans and HIV: how should we respond?

Natalia with Phil Wilson, ED of Black AIDS Institute

Natalia with Phil Wilson, ED of Black AIDS Institute

Contributor: Natalia Cales

While listening to many press conferences and reading the daily AIDS 2008- Global Voice newspaper, it is clear that many feel we are not succeeding in the response HIV and AIDS. From Africa to Asia, in the Caribbean and the United States, HIV is on the rise! Some researchers state “stopping the Epidemic is possible”, but do they really have the “perfect solution”? With additional treatment methods and an increasing ARV medication list, why are the statistics showing this alarming trend.

As a young woman from America, I am very concerned about the recent statistics regarding the rising epidemic. Recently, the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) in the United States published a report, Left Behind, reflecting the state of AIDS in Black America. During a press conference held at the IAC, I had the pleasure to listen to several influential black leaders from the US discuss this report, including Phil Wilson, US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Pernessa Seele, Dr. Helena Gayle, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Dr. Jacob Gayle.

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We need mentors, says young woman at ‘AIDS 2008′

vblog by Natalia Cales

I asked Angela, from Kenya, a young woman attending AIDS 2008 what she hoped the outcomes of the conference would be, especially as a young woman since young women are most affected by HIV. She said that she hoped young women would come out of the conference stronger and more empowered…

We can make a change, says young woman

vblog by Natalia Cales

I spoke with Davia from Jamaica, a young woman attending AIDS 2008 who shared with me some of the problems women in Jamaica face. She hopes for change, that the conference will bring about change but also that young women can lead the change!

AIDS 2008: We must have condoms

vblog by Natalia Cales

I interviewed Tais from Brazil who shared with me her experiences from attending the XVII IAC in Mexico City. The most important lesson she learnt during the conference she says is “condoms, condoms, condoms!”

AIDS 2008: Young Women on the move

Contributor: Natalia Cales

Since the opening ceremony of the XVII International AIDS Conference on August 3, over 25,000 people have traveled from around the world in response to the call for Universal Action Now! Many delegates attending have been infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, while others really just want to make a difference and contribute to the response to this pandemic. Numerous influential global leaders are also in attendance addressing many issues as they relate to treatment, education, prevention, awareness, funding, etc.

As I walk around the Mexico City Banamex Center and the Global Village, I am overwhelmed with the number of sessions, activities, exhibitors and press conferences focusing on the epidemic among women and girls. It is very evident that many have recognized the need to address this universal problem, but are there any solutions in the near future? While attending several sessions, the overall goal has been to have more young women at the planning and decision-making table to make these changes a reality. As a young woman, I think this is a great start to meeting our needs.

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AIDS 2008: the women and girls march

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary and Susan Brennan, World YWCA President at the 'AIDS 2008 Women and Girls' march in Mexico. August 4

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary and Susan Brennan, World YWCA President at the ‘AIDS 2008 Women and Girls’ march in Mexico. August5

World YWCA delegation march for women and girls at the AIDS 2008 march on August 4

World YWCA delegation march for women and girls at the AIDS 2008 march. Mexico City, August 5 2008

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary and Susan Brennan, World YWCA President at the 'AIDS 2008 Women and Girls' march in Mexico. August 4

Delegates to the XVII International AIDS Conference participate in a march to raise awareness of the gap between international commitments to ending the AIDS epidemic and the reality women and girls face in the context of HIV and AIDS. Mexico City, August 5, 2008

If I was in charge

Natalia Cales, YWCA USA

Natalia Cales, YWCA USA

Contributor: Natalia Cales

As the XVII International AIDS Conference (IAC) begins in Mexico City on August 3-8, thousands from around the world will be attending this monumental event. Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic more than 25 years ago, millions of people have been infected and affected. Today, the face of HIV is among young people, especially young women; throughout the world, young women are being infected with HIV.

As a young woman preparing to attend the IAC, I am looking forward to learning about solutions to this devastating issue. I am sure there will be many presenters to listen to and numerous workshops to attend. But, when the conference is over and everyone has returned home, will there be any “effective solutions” to conquering the HIV epidemic among us? Some may say that abstinence is the best solution, or increasing awareness and prevention strategies is more effective.

In my opinion, we need to examine why more females, who are heterosexual and committed to their partners, end up at the top of the list. Why have we become so vulnerable to HIV? Are we putting ourselves at risk in the “name of Love”? Is it the need or want for money that forces us to put ourselves at risk? Are we not aware of its impact or do we believe it “really can’t happen to us”? If you are living positively, does having “your voice heard” really matter? Or, are there adequate comprehensive prevention programs available to meet the needs of young women?

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