Upon landing in Australia I will just have the continent of Antarctica left to discover and trek about. Sounded like a grand goal to have 28 hours ago when I first left New York, with a five year old in tow. After enduring the hundredth leg cramp and staving off the latest bout of dehydration, I glanced out the window and caught this majestic landscape.
The winding Australian earth seemed to be an appropriate reminder of the many curvy roads lying in wait before us as we put forth efforts to reach a world without AIDS. Many in the field have been fighting a good fight for several decades now and at times may feel like winded-up relics, like this lovely road down under. That is nowhere near the case, however.
The question that we should all be thinking as we head into the 20th International AIDS Conference, how do we step up the pace in our efforts when the road (which indeed has been well-worn and traveled) may not yet be so straightforward?
I landed with hope as I thought of how we can step up our efforts to ensure that those on the margins no longer stay there. What are the promising tools that we can use to reach key populations? I have been thinking a lot about social media and how that may serve as a tool in anti-stigma efforts. Despite all our biomedical advances, stigma still impacts access and availability of said advances. Can social media platforms such as Twitter help mitigate and decrease enacted and overt stigma? The HIV-related twitter research I will be presenting shows a complicated picture. Yet, I nonetheless landed with hope.
Landing in Melbourne seven hours ago after being in transit for over 26 hours, meant I was not completely aware of world current events. Then upon checking in to my room as I always do, I turned on the television to the local news. I was stunned. Another Malaysian Airline flight down? It was purposefully brought down? There were over 100 conference delegates on that flight that probably died? I was stunned.
Even in the light of such tragedy we must remain hopeful in our continued efforts. Indeed, such tragic events, show we must always think of how we propel forward and step up the pace in our goals.
I express my deep condolences to the family and friends of those so tragically gone. May their spirits and life dreams keep those of us deep in the field going in our overall goal to one day end AIDS.
Photo and post by Miriam Y. Vega, PhD