I think all of us who have attended an International AIDS Conference in some capacity will agree that events of this kind are few and far between. I go to many conferences both as a delegate and speaker and nothing rivals the pure energy, colour and emotion that International AIDS conferences bring to the people that attend them, in the first instance and secondly, to the cities that host them...
On this day, 20 years ago, the film-maker, painter, sculptor, gardener, author and queer rights activist Derek Jarman died of HIV. One of Britain's leading post-1945 avant garde artists, he is best remembered for his dazzling array of ground-breaking films. But it was as a HIV and queer rights campaigner that I knew him best.
The story I'm going to tell concerns three individuals, whom we'll call (with a hat-tip to Mr Tarantino) Mr Pink, Mr Orange and Mr Black. The reason I'm telling these stories is that last week during my HIV clinic, three of my patients were diagnosed with acute viral hepatitis C. This is how it happened.
As the epidemic continues to rage today, we need ACT UP's inspiring message more than ever. I am endlessly amazed by the difference between the public and the private face of HIV in the UK; between the shiny NGO propaganda and the hard reality on the ground; between the grandiose intentions of HIV policy-makers and what is happening in practice.
New data from UNAIDS, the UN's main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, reveals that an estimated 3.6 million people aged 50 and older are living with HIV. For the first time since the start of the HIV epidemic, 10% of the adult population living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries is aged 50 or older.
Once back in England I met a great guy on a night out. On our second date he disclosed that he was HIV positive... This person educated me. I learned the science behind HIV and this knowledge freed me from the fear that I'd harboured before. More importantly for me though was the openness: when it was relevant, he shared his status, and with his consent, I did the same. What began as cathartic became educational. It was amazing how little people knew!
I'm 42 now and my attitude towards sex has changed and I'm confident in my sexuality. I'm also fully aware of the 'risks', and they are risks. I don't take my being HIV-negative for granted but I also don't allow a fear of HIV to stop me doing what I want to do. After twenty years I've finally realised that a penis isn't a murder weapon.
I'm writing this at the tail end of what has been a hectic but extraordinarily energising week on the path to AIDS2014 - I know it's only October 2013 but it is certainly apparent already to me and my colleagues both here in Australia and at the IAS Secretariat in Switzerland that there is already a groundswell of momentum building ahead of the event.