I was honoured to be selected by IAS to participate at the 24th International AIDS Conference. AIDS2022 took in place in Montreal between 27 July and 2 August.
Let me first of all state that everyone, including me, was so disappointed that so many participants where denied visa by the Canadian Government. I was looking forwards to meet Delegates from Burundi and other parts of Africa, butso many did not make it in the end. If Governments continue to exclude delegates from countries where the pandemic hits hardest, how will we end HIV in 2030?
Now on to my time at AIDS2022. I kicked off strong right away! On the 27th of July I was a speaker on the 9th International Indigenous Pre-conference on HIV and AIDS. I was humbled to share the experiences of the indigenous (Batwa) community of Burundi. To me it is clear – all over the World indigenous people are still facing inequalities, leading to relatively higher numbers of indigenous people affected by HIV and AIDS whilst also facing reduced access to HIV education and care givers. We cannot end HIV and AIDS when we leave indigenous people behind!
There is still much so much to do around education, awareness raising, access to health campaigns for the indigenous community. This is true at least for my home country Burundi, hence also my commitment to breaking this trend. This event gave me refreshing insights into working with indigenous people to address HIV/ AIDS and other pandemics, and planted the seeds for new partnerships in Burundi and elsewhere.
My second major activity was to participate in the U=U Summit on the 28th of July where I was able to meet many of my fellow activists after so many years only communicating online. Did you know that there are still a lot of countries that are not endorsing U=U? This despite knowing that U=U is an immediate and effective response to destroy HIV Stigma which is still a public health emergency. Again we have to keep on investing in finding the right ways to break HIV stigma!
Which brings me to Stories of Hope! The main reason to be on this conference was to share my project through a 3-days exhibition at the Global Village from 29 July to 2 August . As many of you already know, Stories of hope is an initiative where people living with HIV share their talents to break HIV stigma. The launch of Stories of Hope in 2021 was supported by EATG, and the exhibition was proudly supported by HIV vereniging through sponsoring of beautiful materials and hand-outs. Organising an exhibitions at the Global village, allowing me to meet so many activists, artists and conference participants gave me a such positive energy! I am so proud that Stories of hope has reached so many global delegates and that Stories of Hope unites us in breaking HIV stigma by sharing our talent.
There were so many amazing side events to still do around the conference. Just to highlight a few: I participated at the famous AIDS Conference party called “No pants, no Problem” where I performed as Eric the Drag King and performed a dance called “Flush out HIV stigma”. We actually managed to raise 12,000 Canadian Dollars during the event in support of HIV+ women. Eric the Drag King is another me you did not know about, right? Again another great way to share my talent to break HIV stigma.
I am very thankful to be part of AIDS2022. I want to extend a personal thank you to the Heroes of Hope who shared their stories during the conference; Adam, Matthew, Gloria and Faustine. And I know there are still more Stories of Hope to come from other people I met at AIDS2022. Keep an eye on Stories of Hope for more interviews and portraits!
Share talent, break HIV stigma!