Friday: More good sessions, swimming, and dancing

5 Aug, 2011
Andreas Triandafilidis

Hey everyone, Andreas here yet again. In the morning we all attended Tim’s (see yesterday’s post) session on “Equal rights to all: Fight HIV/AIDS and not people with HIV/AIDS”. Tim was one of a number of panellists who all agreed it was a very complicated subject and had some interesting points. Some points included:

Having a Commonwealth/Irish chat in-between sessions

-> People are afraid to admit or even test for HIV for fear of the legal, social, and other consequences and stigma. In local village clinics it has hard to keep a positive result secret.
-> If the very moment someone contracts HIV they take the medication, the chances of them passing them on is almost non-existent. Likewise it is entirely possible to stop mothers with HIV form passing it on.
-> Four women are infected for every one man infected. It is very hard to treat or deal with HIV in a male dominated societies where you cannot question him even if he is infected and continues to have five or seven wives, and where sexual harassment can be more prevalent. Accordingly, while 15 years ago Uganda was seen as the poster child of dealing with HIV, the problem is increasing again because they didn’t tackle the real underpinning causes, such as discrimination and sexual harassment.
-> We cannot deal with HIV unless we deal with our laws and attitudes around marginalised groups such as homosexuals, sex workers, and prison inmates right; we need fight the situation and the disease, not the person. The advice often given by officials is if you need to decriminalise gay sex, you decriminalise sex work, provide needles, and remove laws that criminalise HIV positive spreaders without proof it was intentional. That being said, many end up doing sex work involuntary, they do it out of poverty and desperation. They don’t know where they next meal will be and don’t have a home.
-> Accordingly, HIV also cannot be treated in isolation; there needs a full package of support. Medication will not work if people do not have proper food and nutrition. In fact, without sufficient nutrition, medication can even kill people. Africa is one of the fasting growing regions, Governments that don’t sustain their interest in HIV and drop the ball need democratic pressure to hold them to account.
-> Getting enough education campaigns running, in all areas of the world, is also still a very big problem. Some people are still do not accept it is a disease and that it is transferred by sex intercourse. In Western countries there is some targeted information, but little general.

The very clear lake with the styrofoam water steps in the background

After the HIV session a bunch of people from the Commonwealth and Irish delegations went to a session on Obama and politics in the United States. There were many interesting ideas raising and points made. For example it was said that one of the biggest reasons that Obama isn’t more progressive is that while he had a great movement and energy to elect him, that massive movement and energy almost completely vanished after the election rather than staying in, or frequently visiting, Washington; there hasn’t been the same push and support presence on the Left as there has on the Right, with the constant strong Fox News and corporate presence. This makes it hard to sustain truly progressive stances. Unfortunately, as I didn’t take notes and was so tired that I fell asleep during question time, I cannot tell you much more :P.

After the Obama session most of the Commonwealth delegations headed down to the lake to swim and make a playlist for the Asia-Pacific party to be held in the evening. The sun kept popping behind clouds by the time we got there but the lake was beautiful and clear. So clear in fact that if you stood still when up to your neck in water, you could still see the bottom. Along with a few others I managed to face-plant in a series of styrofoam water steps, in a competition that saw a lot of broken steps but no one get further than the second step.

The evening whole conference session on the 'World Economy and Equality'

Finally, after some relaxation at the lake, I went to the main conference session in the main tent. It was on the “World Economy and Equality”, had some big-wig speakers, and included some interesting, mainly euro-centric, points. It was suggested that European countries are much more dependent on each other than they are independent from each other. It was also suggested that there are already many positive micro-movements for change, for example in the sustainability field, but that the global financial crisis could be used by Right Wing governments to create fear and get elected, forming a big step backwards (in fact, most of Europe currently has Right Wing governments). Finally, one other point I noted before heading off to have a desperately needed nap, was that a distinction can be made between banking and financing. Banking – one of the speakers told us – is lending people your money; financing is leading other people money you don’t have. This financial sector has been allowed to pollute and spill over into many other sectors of the economy, and with very little oversight.

After recovering a bit from a lack of sleep I awoke around 11pm in time to try and ring my insurance in NZ, only to realise that while I had timed it right and it was daytime in New Zealand, it was also Saturday, and therefore my insurance was not open for business :(. So I went to the Asia-Pacific party for a spot of dancing and socialising instead :). ‘Till tomorrow, Andreas.



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