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.

During the week, I learned that even though we have made significant progress with treatment and medication services, we are not succeeding in HIV-prevention. This news is very disturbing to me, especially since I am young woman committed to community outreach and prevention. If more and more people are being infected, then what are we doing wrong and/or not doing at all to prevent the spread of this disease? And, for those living with HIV, why is stigma and discrimination still evading their lives? Does anyone have the answers?

By attending the conference, I am convinced that more needs to be done today for a better tomorrow. While participating in the MTV Staying Live awareness campaign, Sex Uncovered, it allowed young people, especially young women, to express their views about various topics, including sex, relationships, HIV, prevention, etc. The on-camera open discussion project was created and produced by Cathy Phiri, another young woman on the move from London. I believe this international media project about sensitive topics will help to break the silence about HIV and AIDS. I encourage all my fellow sisters to continue the fight because I know we have the power within us to make a difference.

Many Blessings to All!
Natalia Cales – YWCA USA

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