By Dr Victoria Nnesa
With over 15,000 delegates from over 75 countries worldwide, the opening ceremony of the 20th international AIDS conference was a kaleidoscope of faith, love, unity and most of all hope.
From the different accents to the colorful displays in the booths, the encouraging powerful stories to the sad moving stories, one could just not get enough. The opening started with a cold reminder of the fallen MH17, with a constant reminder now again by the different speakers. In each address, we were told of the great works of the delegates we had lost in the crash and their vision for the future. “We must end HIV/AIDS by 2030, VCT should reach everyone, everywhere, no one should be born with HIV, and people living with HIV should be treated with dignity and respect.” – Michele Sidibe, UNAIDS secretary general sharing Joep Lange vision, whose life was claimed by the crash.
Despite the obvious sadness that covered the room when the topic was brought up, and the cold weather, the speakers warmly welcomed the delegation to Melbourne and commonly stressed on the need to work together in the bid to combat HIV/AIDS.
One particular story, shared by an Indonesian girl living with HIV stressed the need to disseminate the right information to the public and the need to involve those living with HIV in the cause, policy making and decision making. She urged young women living with HIV to join the fight and take an active role.
Other speakers stressed the need of not leaving anyone behind especially the vulnerable minority groups of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual (LGBT), sex workers, prisoners, migrants and people with disability.
However enough was not stressed on the involvement of young women. Young women play a key role in advocating for sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV awareness as such it is important to empower them.
On an ending note, Michele Sidibe walked in with a banner, ‘AIDS WILL ONLY END WHEN…?’ what are your thoughts and suggestions.
ForFor blog posts like these and others by our sisters from all over the world, please visit the World YWCA “women leading change” site