Dateline: MEXICO CITY
Universal action now. That's the theme of the XXVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. I'm watching the opening session and it's frustrating viewing. I’ve heard all of this before. Speaker after speaker, each also having heard all this before, is repeating the mantra - action now. Fighting this epidemic is a never-ending now.
The title of Dr. Peter Piot's keynote address is 'Don't Give Up the Fight!". He's the Executive Director of UNAIDS and knows full well how difficult fighting this epidemic has become, 'Because the end of AIDS is nowhere in sight. Every day, almost three times as many people become infected with HIV as those who start antiretroviral treatment. We will set ourselves up for demoralization and failure if we base our strategies on the illusion that the end of AIDS can be achieved any time soon.'
'In most countries, stigma against people living with HIV remains a grave challenge. On third of countries still do not have laws to protect people living with HIV. In most countries, discrimination remains legal against women, men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users, and ethnic minorities. This must change.' - Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations
'This means challenging head-on the stigma and discrimination that continue to hamper our progress against this disease. In this region, men who have sex with men continue to bear the brunt of the epidemic, that means challenging homophobia everywhere in our society: in government circles, in health care settings, in our families, and yes, in our churches as well.' - Dr. Louis-Soto Ramirez, AIDS 2008 Co-Chair
'Combination prevention, just like combination treatment, is the only feasible option. Anything else is, frankly, irresponsible. Combination prevention means finding the right mix of activities for each local epidemic. Combination prevention also invloves mobilizing for social change - no more stigma around HIV, no more homophobia, no more gender based violence, no more ostracism of sex workers." - Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAIDS
'It is time to challenge the tyranny of ignorance and denial. It is time for leaders of all kinds - political, religious, and community - to help move these groups in from the margins of society to the center of the global response to HIV.' - Dr. Pedro Cahn, President, International AIDS Society
Of course, we can't win the battle against HIV without also defeating homophobia, denial, stigma, gender violence, discrimination, economic inequity, racism, intolerance, drug profiteering, scientific dogma, secrecy, ignorance, inequality, poverty, marginalization, insensitivity, infidelity, sexism, promiscuity, shame, fear, guilt, bias, blame, exclusion and religious doctrine. And so, the never-ending now.