Little Moments Stand Out at the AIDS Conference

Tamar Abrams is the Communications Director for Population Action International.

It's the first full day of the International AIDS Conference and, for the first time since I arrived on Saturday, everyone seems full of purpose. All around the conference center, people are consulting their massive conference programme to determine which sessions they should attend.

At 7:00 this morning, the Caucus for Evidence-Based Prevention convened its first meeting of members. Considering the Women's March was happening simultaneously, a suprising number of people attended. The buzz was around last night's opening session. We were all in awe of the fact that the majority of conference attendees left the Rogers Centre immediately after Bill and Melinda Gates spoke — and before celebs like Richard Gere, Alicia Keyes and the Barenaked Ladies appeared. It may be that substance prevails over flash. Or perhaps it was just that the celebs didn't take the stage until well after 9:00 p.m. We are all perplexed by Bill Gates' positive framing of PEPFAR and the ABC's last night. Of course he's not going to outwardly criticize his governmental partners, but surely he knew how this particular audience would react? He was soundly booed. Melinda Gates, on the other hand, is golden. Her remarks about women and stigmatization are being hailed universally by members of the Caucus. And we are all a little disappointed that neither of the Gateses announced a new infusion of money for prevention or treatment. Everyone is holding out hope that a big announcement on funding will occur later in the week.

This is my first IAC and I admit to being overwhelmed. There is so much to see, do, hear…and the conference is spread out over a vast amount of space. It's really the little moments — rather than the grand ones — that stand out. The Gateses and not a few journalists chuckling at the poor French pronunciations of Northern Ontario Minister of Health Tony Clement during a press conference yesterday afternoon. A woman in a t-shirt that read "HIV Positive" holding the hand of a gorgeous toddler in the Global Village. Two men near an escalator debating how to say "penis" in French. A woman wondering aloud to her companion about the amount of money expended on this conference and how there might be a much better use for the funds in sub-Saharan Africa. Women and men in native dress from nations I can't pronounce. The little moments will stay with me long after I forget the statistics.

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