born just like me — free of HIV. Every single one. Please, I am begging: Let us make this world an AIDS-free generation.” People wiped their eyes and looked at
one another and shook their heads, and they applauded. The opening session continued for another hour. Then the meeting was declared open, and over the next five days, it became clear just how well Florence and Ebube had captured the heart of the profoundly human and human- izing International AIDS Conference. The meeting hadn’t been held in the United
States since 1990, during the depths of the plague years, and in an interview with Convene a few weeks before, Tiffany Gilliard, head of the local secretariat for AIDS 2012, had said: “It is my hope that people who aren’t talking about HIV and AIDS will start to talk about it again. The stigma will be erased to some degree because this confer- ence [will have] been so widespread. The media will cover it from various angles, from human- interest stories to real science stories. I just hope people are talking about HIV and AIDS again, at the fevered pitch they were talking about it 20 years ago.” Just by sharing their story, Florence and Ebube demonstrated why they must.
here is a very simple reason why the AIDS conference hadn’t met in the United States for 22 years: The International AIDS
Society (IAS), which organizes the biannual meet- ing, had forbidden it. In 1987, the United States enacted a ban on HIV-positive foreign visitors, and five years later, IAS decided that the conference would no longer be held in any country with such a policy. The last International AIDS Conference held in the United States was in San Francisco in 1990, and while the last two decades have seen AIDS transformed from an unstoppable scourge to a somewhat manageable epidemic, at least in the developed world, it’s happened without the par- ticipation of the world’s most popular destination for international association meetings. But in October 2009, the Obama administra-
Generations HIV- free Ebube Francais Taylor and her HIV-positive mother, Florence Uche Ignatius, at AIDS 2012’s opening.
tion overturned the ban on HIV-positive visitors — finishing a process begun a year earlier by the Bush administration — and barely a month later, it was announced that AIDS 2012 would be coming not just to the United States but to Washington, D.C., which in addition to being the nation’s capital claims its highest rate of HIV infection. “While