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
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.
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
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
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."