The first time I contracted gonorrhea, which in my day was affectionately called The Clap, I was 20 years old and had just moved to West Hollywood, California. It was 1981, disco was still thumping in the bars, and the bath houses were packed. My dance card was filled.
When Mary E. Bowman stepped to the stage five years ago at SpitDat, an open mic night in Washington, D.C., she was 20 years old and terrified. She was about to perform "Dandelions," her first poem to reveal a secret that her own family had long kept quiet: that Mary had lived with HIV since birth, the result of a mother addicted to drugs who died when Mary was only three.
They come from different cultures and regions of the world, but these fifteen HIV activists all share one important trait: a fierce devotion to HIV issues and a commitment to leave their mark on 2015.
By now the more scientific highlights from the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne has been digested and shared through your networks. There's always something unexpected -- and sometimes even encouraging, such as the new iPrEx study results showing, again, the efficacy of Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The evidence mounts.
This week, Gilead was targeted by hepatitis C treatment activists over the stunning price of its new hepatitis C drug, sofosbuvir (Sovaldi): US$1,000 per pill for each day of a 12-week regimen. Because the medication is both more effective and offers a shorter treatment period than previous therapies, activists see the drug as key to ending the hepatitis C scourge as we know it -- but warn that the price could keep that from happening. They took action here at the conference, and one of those events is in this video.
Try, if you can, to hold it together while hearing from a man from Nigeria who risks imprisonment simply by providing services to gay men; in his country, such a nefarious act is punishable by a decade in prison. Marvel at Wonder Woman, an Australian aboriginal drag performer who has taken on the mantle of a superhero HIV awareness figure. And hear the impassioned pleas of the disenfranchised -- including transgender people, those from remote locales of the planet, and those who feel as though they're still invisible even at the conference they're attending.
But nowhere was the mutual understanding of our shared commitment greater than when marching together during the activist event in the streets of Melbourne on Tuesday, July 22. We were a single community of people with HIV and our allies, and as we raised our placards and our fists, we understood one another completely.
While my video coverage will frequently illustrate the ways in which the plane tragedy still affects AIDS 2014 delegates and the Australian community, there is also a sense here that the massive conference is ready to march forward and address the task that always remains at hand: fighting HIV.
So little was yet known about the details of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 tragedy, but the loss was deeply felt in very tangible ways. Colleagues of the Global Forum had been lost in the crash. One of the scheduled speakers would not be giving her presentation; she had been on the flight.
When TheBody.com sent me to Vienna in 2010 for the International AIDS Conference, it was profound for me in more ways than one. I had found my calling as a video blogger, and I will never forget how exhilarating it felt to share the sights and sounds of the massive event with viewers.