Let us show the world.

When you do work related to HIV, you are reminded every day that life hangs in the balance. Every day is a life-and-death struggle against a virus that threatens to kill 35 million people around the world.

 

AIDS2014_bridge

I love the opportunities to be with my colleagues at meetings like the AIDS 2014 meeting of the International AIDS Society because, not only do we have so much to learn from each other about how we can best fight against this virus, but also because it is very good to be in community with others who are fighting this same fight. We encourage each other; we push each other on in a task that often seems too big, too heavy.

Of course, we have been dealt quite a new blow as we gather for this AIDS 2014 meeting.

As the world was shocked by the lives lost on the plane shot down over Ukraine, we were particularly shocked to learn about our colleagues in the world of HIV who were among those killed on that plane. I was already here in Melbourne for the international pediatric HIV workshop that precede the main AIDS conference, and we started our very first session hearing that mentors and colleagues were among those killed.

 joep-lange quote

In particular, we have been struck by the loss of Dr. Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society. Dr. Lange was a clinician, a researcher, and an activist who led key research in how we treat HIV infections and was pivotal in convincing the world that HIV really could be treated in every corner of the globe. Pediatricians like me are very aware of his studies that helped us figure out how we can prevent the babies of HIV-infected mothers from being infected. In places like Kenya, he also transformed methods of health insurance and drug access. An amazing man, and one who will be deeply missed.

Our group is in mourning, both collectively and with the rest of the world. It has been my privilege to be able to honor our colleagues like Dr. Lange by talking about that mourning more broadly.

In many ways, we are a group that is used to mourning. We are a group that is used to translating our losses into deep motivation to keep fighting this life-or-death fight against this virus that threatens so many more people. The names of those who have died from HIV that are listed on the walls of the exhibition hall displays go on and on and on. My colleague tells the story of just how few of her fellow HIV-infected activists are still alive to talk about what these medicines mean for them. I wear a necklace of red clay beads that was made by a Kenyan woman named Mary who died from her HIV almost half a dozen years ago. As I present my research here and meet with colleagues and explore ways to provide better care for children with HIV, I am acutely aware that we need to do a much, much better job of this because I have lost over 50 children in the past year. We are a group that has lost friends and family members, colleagues and community. This week and over these past decades.

So, we continue as we have before. We remember and we fight. And as we just heard at the official opening ceremony of AIDS 2014 from Francoise Barre Sinoussi, "Let us show the world that neither brutality nor hatred should stop us."

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Posted at 21:22

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