Day 4 at the International AIDS Conference, and it’s quiet. I think we’re getting to that point in the proceedings where we all start feeling a little exhausted from the constant stimulation. There’s so much going on here, every minute of every day, that it becomes difficult to fight the feeling that one is missing out on something, even if, like me, you’re just an exhibitor and don’t have access to the scientific presentations.
Because you are missing out, no matter what. That’s life. You can’t do it all. I’m pretty ok with that concept in general, but there’s something about being in this environment that makes it hard to sit still, peacefully.
I’ve not meditated since I’ve been in DC. I’ve not done any yoga, I’ve not had time to read, and I’ve had little time to write. This is often the nature of travel for me, but it’s more pronounced this week. Perhaps I’m confused by the fact that I am away from home, but I’m not on vacation…yet.
But I have done some good stuff. The best reason for coming to a conference like this, in my opinion — indeed, the best reason to even have an International AIDS Conference — is to bring people together from around the world to meet and to talk. I’m not talking about the formal presentations, valuable as they might be, but the spontaneous interactions that take place one-on-one throughout the week.
Another good thing these conferences do is to affirm the work we are doing, publicize it to the world, and renew us in our commitment to keep it up. Here we have a chance to step back and see how far we’ve come. The news this year is really inspiring, and we need to be reminded of that.
And, in a strange way, we need to be reminded of AIDS. I say “strange” because so many of us have been living amidst the epidemic, dealing with it daily in both our work and in our personal lives, for so long, it has become a constant noise running in the background. I rarely stop to think about it, but it’s always there: in my job 4 days a week, in the bodies of my HIV-positive friends, of my best friend, in the memories of those I’ve lost and the trauma caused by coming through that war, in the way I make love.
I am writing from the Global Village, where incredibly moving art displays have me fighting back the tears, and I’m a little surprised — but also relieved — to see I can still feel this strongly about something I’ve gotten pretty good at managing in my daily life.
There is a lot of craziness to the International AIDS Conference, and it’s easy to become cynical about it all. It’s also a great reminder of how AIDS fits into my life and why I’m doing the work I do, and for that I am grateful to be here.