HRC Blog

International AIDS Conference: Remembrance, Hope, Activism, Honesty

This post comes from HRC Consumer Marketing Assistant Bryce Romero:

Seven months ago, I was tasked with securing a booth space at the XIX International AIDS Conference here in Washington, DC. For the first time since the lifting of the HIV travel ban, tens of thousands of doctors, researchers, service providers and NGO representatives flocked to our nation's capital to discuss one thing- turning the tide on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

At the crossroads of LGBT equality and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, what does turning the tide mean?

In the course of seven days, I've learned there is not one simple answer but there is remembrance, there is hope, there is activism and there is honesty.

Having witnessed a small portion of the AIDS quilt on display at HRC's headquarters, having listened as Vic Basile spoke of the fear and uncertainty that gripped the LGBT community as an unknown disease stole a nation's young men and having spoken with dozens of conference delegates from South America, Asia, Africa and Europe who have lost friends, relatives and entire families to this devastating epidemic; one thing rings loud and clear: turning the tide means never forgetting the millions who have perished.

Even a 15-minute walk through the Global Village or a five minute conversation with one of the many people who approached HRC's booth was enough to convince me that this is a community focused not on the past but on the promise of the future. The sheer energy and excitement was palpable - from Latin drag performances to impromptu talks on ending criminalization and imprisonment in the transgender community; no one could escape the prevailing tide of hope and optimism.

For some at this conference, taking a stand and raising one's voice against injustice and inequality starts a pivotal conversation. To have a delegate from Sierra Leone say, 'we read about Stonewall- how do we make it happen in my country?,’ is a powerful testament to how we've turned the tide toward greater acceptance of LGBT Americans and how much further we have yet to go.

Honesty is a simple word- one we preach often when advocating for LGBT equality. But in this community, honesty is paramount to ending this epidemic. By being honest to ourselves and honest to our sexual partners, we can build a generation that is not only free from HIV/AIDS but also free from stigma and discrimination.

As a gay, HIV positive man, I could never have expected that seven days would leave such a lasting impact on my commitment to LGBT equality - a commitment that now also includes ending HIV stigma in all communities.

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