For the past week, I have volunteered at the 22nd International Conference on AIDS. I was fortunate enough to be assigned to one of the best positions at the conference the Bag pick up. This is where everyone and I mean everyone would pass through to pick up their conference bag filled with stuff.
I volunteered for a few reasons, one being
that I wanted to get reconnected with the newest updates happing in Research, implementation, and outreach.
Another important reason was to hopefully reconnect with people that I had worked closely within New York. Collogues and volunteers that had been working relentlessly for change “Back in the Day”.
How sad I felt to see only one person Cornelius Baker I knew from the early days. Greeting all the delegates arriving and very briefly chatting while I gave them their bags and badges. Asking the ones from the U.S. where they were from, the ones from New York and the surrounding areas were my focus. All young and with a lot of enthusiasm made me feel as I did “back in the day”. What I was missing were some of the old-timers. People I knew from that time. Asking the younger delegates who their directors/ executive directors are. None of the names were familiar at least from the New York area.
It made me wonder what happened to them all. Are they still with us? Did they retire? Or just fade away?
Thank goodness for the Volunteer Supervisor on my shift. Marsha from D.C. She filled me in on the people update, and it was good to hear that some people are still kicking ass in the fight. Marsha an African American woman still very much in the fight had great knowledge of policy, advocacy from an international perspective. Thank you, Marsha, for not only being a great supervisor but a great person.
You always hear about the face of AIDS changing and it is for sure. But we never know what happened to the people on the front lines. Yes, we know of some of the “famous” leaders and warriors. But we don’t know of the others. I know some have moved on into different work.
This conference made me aware that I am getting old. I may not feel it but not seeing many of my peers from the 80’s and 90’s makes me sad. When I moved to Amsterdam 18 years ago the policy was changing in the U.S. many people in the fight had gotten discouraged many continued to fight. I just left.
It pleases me to see the new generation from around the world working for change. Back in the Day, the fight was about treatment; although it still is, there is another fight going on STIGMA, TRANSGENDER ISSUES, and ACCESS TO TREATMENT IN POOR COUNTRIES and so on.
I have no words of wisdom to the new generation, I feel that I should offer some, but you the new Warriors, I hope that the Generals can lead you into battle. I will say this if you have a weak leader step up and fight for the right of the people you are helping. AIDS is not a numbers game it is about people.