International Flights

As a pandemic evolves, we come together, each making a mark on history

The International AIDS Conference is accompanied by related events including a display of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, a revival of Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart, and the five-branch We Can End AIDS march set for July 24. But the conference’s main purpose, its website says, is “to assess where we are, evaluate recent scientific developments and lessons learnt, and collectively chart a course forward” to end the pandemic.

When an enterprise lasts more than a generation, its success requires a professional element. This is true whether fighting a disease or managing a chorus. Yet a blogger friend springs to mind who still refers pejoratively to “AIDS Inc.,” and I recall a GMCW co-founder who was angered years ago to learn that the chorus governance had been changed to bring in more professionalism, even though he had long since moved away.

Sometimes we stubbornly cling to old ways, as I long clung to Microsoft-based PCs despite frequently cursing at them. Now I receive my magazines and newspapers on my iPad. Change doesn’t happen all at once, as I was reminded last week while helping stuff 1,000 bags with printed materials for distribution at the “From Stigma to Strength” pre-conference and the AIDS 2012 Global Village. Everyone hasn’t switched to electronic downloading.

One thing I am confident will never change is that people with shared interests will travel long distances to interact in person. Technology gives us wonderful tools, but we are still flesh and blood creatures who feel compelled to risk getting together. There are things teleconferencing cannot do. Here’s to the arriving delegates, and the bits of history they inadvertently gather as they follow their hearts.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@starpower.net.

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