International AIDS Conference 2008 Mexico – Day 2

Hi all,

Just wanted to send you another little update after my second day here at the International AIDS Conference. A few things that came up or that I was thinking of throughout the day:

(1) There was a young woman who spoke during the morning plenary session named Thembi Ngubane who does a radio diary of being a young person living with HIV. You can visit the website at She was really great and her story is really moving. While I was listening to her, I was wondering if it would be possible for us to start a similar project for WUP. Like, could we find several young people who represent the different faces of HIV/AIDS in Pune (a slum dweller, a university student, a corporate professional, etc.) who would be willing to keep an audio diary or a blog that could be accessed through the WUP website? They wouldn’t have to use their real names or show any photographs, just tell the story of their day to day lives both living with HIV and as just normal young people. I think this would really help to get the message out there that people with HIV are just like everyone else and would help address the stigma of living with the virus. It could also serve as a platform for moving young people who might otherwise feel discriminated against from the shadows and into advocacy and activism, which I think would be very personally empowering for them. What do you think? Has anything like this been tried before?

(2) In the same session, they got into talking about new media in HIV/AIDS activism and it gave me some ideas for ways we could reach out via WUP. What about putting up a video of the awareness sessions so that people could watch it online? Or a video of a condom demonstration? I know it’s not the same as being there live and in person so that people can engage in discussion and ask questions, but it might be a good way to reach people who wouldn’t come to a session in person because of stigma or just shyness, but might still want to access the information. Also, have we ever considered sending out HIV, testing, or condom info via SMS? Like, if we had all those names and numbers from bootcamp sign ups or some other source. We probably wouldn’t want to bother them with regular text messages, but maybe just periodic ones with an HIV fact or a list of Pune area testing sites. Do you think this would be feasible and would people respond well to it? It seems like so many things go out over SMS in India.

(3) I attended an HIV and Religion session this morning. It was mostly pretty boring and not very useful because it was more theoretical than pragmatic, but there was a guy there from India (Ashok Row Kavi from Humsafar Trust) who was involved in a Hindu religious leaders conference that took place in June to discuss HIV/AIDS. Here is a link about it from UNAIDS:

I think it would probably be helpful to get a copy of the Declaration that resulted from it. Perhaps we can find it on the internet or find someone to write to for it?

(4) In the afternoon, I attended a session on stigma and discrimination. There was a presenter there speaking about discrimination against Hijras. He did a qualitative study with the Hijra community (I think in Dehli?) through focus groups and in-depth interviews. I thought his findings were pretty interesting just because I don’t know much about Hijras. He said those he interviewed reported routine discrimination by police, doctors, and teachers. They reported difficulty opening bank accounts and getting official gov’t documents like driver’s licenses, ration cards, and passports (mostly due to issues about ticking a gender on applications or not being able to access needed documents because they had been kicked out of their family homes). He also spoke about the organization of the Hijra community into ‘houses’ (there is a Hindi word for this but I don’t remember what he said it was) with a ‘house mother or guru’, who has been castrated, and various levels of students who are apprenticed under this guru. I just thought this was really interesting because it’s very similar to the gay ballroom scene in NYC. If you aren’t familiar with ballroom, you should google it. It’s really interesting.

(5) Lastly, I grabbed a bunch of materials for us that I thought might be useful, including some stuff on IDU projects, and put up a post on the bulletin board looking for volunteers. So Hans, you may (hopefully) get some emails because of that.

I think that’s about it. My poster is tomorrow so keep your fingers crossed for me and wish me good luck. 🙂


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