As the clock moved forward on the final full day of the conference, fervent and final arguments were made, souvenirs were tucked away for the return trip, and the flow of posts with the #AIDS2014 slowed to a trickle.
Even as the conference uploaded a greater number of actual session webcasts to the Internet -- partially rectifying a gripe voiced by at least a few journalists and advocates seeking to follow the proceedings from afar -- the conference itself began to end.
The closing sessions of the conference still lie ahead, but they tend to be notoriously ill-attended as people make their way back to the vital work and the cherished families and communities that await them at home.
At the closing, hard-working "rapporteurs,"
the diligent summarizers and synthesizers of the conference set, will deliver summaries of each of the five conference tracks.
Mark S. King took to the streets with fellow activists, serving as a rapporteur of sorts in his most recent video installment as he interviewed "awesome advocates." Here's just a few more examples of the important words and ideas we've heard, seen and read in recent hours:
Words Well Said
JoAnne Keatley, in center without sign. (Photo: International AIDS Society/Elisabetta Fino)
JoAnne Keatley: "We are transgender women and men, and we have our own community, and our own ability to respond to the issues that are facing us."
The Star Observer of Australia captured the voice of JoAnne Keatley calling for more recognition of transgender leaders:
At the opening plenary session on the fifth day of the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, trans woman and researcher JoAnne Keatley said trans people should be representing themselves. "Consider inviting a trans HIV profession to represent our own response to these important updates and issues," she said to the packed audience, who responded with applause. "I think that many of the people on the panel recognize that trans women and men are not men who have sex with men, we are transgender women and men, and we have our own community, and our own ability to respond to the issues that are facing us."
Keatley, who runs the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health in the U.S., told the Star Observer she was concerned about the blanket use of the term "transgender" by WHO (World Health Organization) and others, even though trans women are disproportionately affected by HIV.
She explained that a draft of the recent WHO guidelines for HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations "kept speaking about transgender people as if we didn't have male or female identities ... So my argument was that, to say that transgender people were a key population when really the incidence resided among trans women, the fact that we don't call out the fact that HIV is having this profound impact on transgender women, and that we reduce it to transgender women is just another way of erasing our gender. It dehumanizes us and in effect it erases our gender identity."
Paul Semugoma: "Today I was very powerfully reminded that people still die of AIDS."
Dr. Paul Semugoma, a physician from Uganda who has been a leader in the fight for HIV prevention, care, and treatment among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Africa, received the 2014 Elizabeth Taylor human rights award from amfAR, just hours after the loss of a family member to AIDS:
Today I was very powerfully reminded that people still die of AIDS when they drop through the cracks. My sister-in-law, in the last few hours, passed away from AIDS. It's 2014, it's 30 years since the epidemic started, we have the drugs, we have quite a lot of things. But we have structural issues that stand in the way. I'm a gay man, I'm an African, I'm an Ugandan, each of these things can stand in the way of one's access to health ... For a person like me, quite a lot of things stand against you, in work, in advocacy, in just plain saying I also want to live the happy life that other people do.
U.S. Ambassador, on HIV criminalization: "Time to remedy our mistakes."
Introducing the panel "Criminalization of Key Populations: How to Respond to HIV," the U.S. Ambassador to Australia delivered a hard-hitting statement that condemned a range of criminalization measures, including those in his home nation:
We know that criminalization is bad health policy. It is bad public policy. It doesn't work to
prevent the spread of disease -- in fact, it does the opposite.
While the United States still has laws that criminalize HIV status -- as one of today's panelists,
Nick Rhoades, can tell you from painful experience -- we are working to be better, to do better,
and to remedy our mistakes. ...
Criminalization laws undermine public health approaches to fighting the disease and limiting its
spread. These laws do not reflect current scientific knowledge about HIV. They undermine our
ability to get people into screening and treatment programs. More fundamentally, these laws
wrongly stigmatize and marginalize those who are living with HIV and AIDS. We believe that
one of the most productive public policy actions that we can take is removing outdated HIV
criminalization laws from the books.