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‘Thirty years into the epidemic, people are still dying. And although there have certainly been a lot of advancements, we don’t want to take the spotlight off that.’


The exhibit hall had only been open for a few


hours when a protest rolled in — a line of black- shirted activists marching toward Canada’s booth at the front third of the hall and chanting, “We say fight back! Harper denies evidence!” They wrapped the booth in yellow crime-scene tape that said, “HARPER GOVERNMENT: EVIDENCE FREE ZONE!” and unrolled a black banner: “HARPER = DEATH.” The group turned out to be AIDS Action Now!, a Canada-based organization that was taking issue with what seemed to be the entirety of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s HIV/AIDS policies. The Canada booth was empty when the protest


happened, and within 15 minutes, the activists had handed out flyers, posed for photos, answered questions, and went on their way. Not long after that, the crime-scene tape was gone and the booth was fully staffed, and the small fraction of the show floor that had turned its attention to the scene went about its business. And business was a big part of AIDS 2012. A few


days after the Canada protest, at the Alere booth, Paul Hempel explained why it was important for his company — the Waltham, Mass.–headquar- tered manufacturer of diagnostic equipment, including several advanced blood tests for HIV — to participate in AIDS 2012. “We need to be seen as, and I believe we are, a leader in the field of test- ing,” said Hempel, Alere’s senior vice president for ethics and compliance as well as special counsel. “And there isn’t a better show than this one. You don’t just have scientists here.” Alere was also using the conference to go wide


with its Make (+) More Positive initiative, which Hempel called “our first foray into CSR.” Picking up on the spirit of hope permeating AIDS 2012, the company invited visitors to its sleek, white, Apple Store–chic booth to use crayons and paper to draw their own symbol of optimism; each one would count toward a free HIV screening for a person in need. “We’re trying to get people to rethink what being positive means,” Hempel said,


PCMA.ORG


adding: “How do you reduce stigma in the commu- nity? Because it’s very clear that it goes: decrease in stigma, increase in testing; increase in testing, increase in treatment; increase in treatment, decrease in transmission.”


T


wo floors down, the Global Village was a completely different scene. The atmo- sphere was less corporate and more


earthy; in places it was almost funky. “Upstairs we have got all of the science, all of the abstracts, all of the workshops that will be presented, and down- stairs we have the Global Village,” Gilliard said. “We really do have two very different conferences that will happen.” On Monday afternoon, the very different con-


ference downstairs found Yaa Simpson, a Chicago- based community epidemiologist, presenting “Culturally Competent Tools & Strategies to Accu- rately Capture the Reality of HIV Among non- U.S.-Born Blacks/Africans Living in the U.S.” in the Black Diaspora Networking Zone. Simpson’s slides included graphic photos of female-circumcision procedures, but she had no problem holding the attention of the dozens of people in her audience. Not far away was the Sex Workers Networking


Zone (theme: “Rocking the Boat”), which seemed to be responsible for the stark black posters hanging throughout the Global Village that said: “No Drug Users? No Sex Workers? No Internat’l AIDS Conference.” Past that, a row of booths dead-ended at the Community Dialogue Space, a large, theater-style area with a hundred or so chairs arranged in a semi-circle and facing a stage; the topic being discussed was “Getting It Right: Ensuring a Human Rights Approach to Global Fund Programmes.” In another corner, the Global Village Screening


Room was playing “Positive Children,” a 40-min- ute documentary about HIV-positive children and their parents in Ukraine, which was followed by “Scenarios From Africa,” a series of short films about “particularly sensitive subjects related to


SEPTEMBER 2012 PCMA CONVENE 65


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