With over 15 000 delegates, a red carpet welcome from the City, headliners President Clinton and Sir Elton (though neither without some controversy), and a Global Village that lived up to its name, the International Conference on AIDS, AIDS2018, meant business.
It also meant that there was likely to be the biggest international gathering of Black activists and experts who are working to support Black gay/bi/queer men’s sexual health. Being BlackOut, we wanted to be a part of that conversation, to help build lasting networks among Black queer men, and to amplify voices, particularly when they have knowledge to share that is crucial for our well being.
Colleagues at ViiV Healthcare (US) agreed that this was a conversation worth having and one that they would support so we reached out to Amsterdam and Julian and Collins from Black Queer And Trans Resistance NL became the perfect local partners. Others lent their support; Black AIDS Institute in L.A., Counter Narrative Project in Atlanta, and Prepster, here in London started to spread the word.
The events helped us and everyone who came feel part of a global movement to address the impact of HIV in our communities. In discussing our similarities and differences we were able to learn from each other and make connections that we hope to continue building on.
Meanwhile, in the main conference hall, Dr David Malebranche, advocate, physician and Black gay man, told it like it is. Avert reported Malebranche asking:
if you own a restaurant, and nobody is coming, you don’t go away and do a study about the customer. You ask yourself, does the food taste good? Is it convenient for the customer? Are my staff friendly? The concept of a population being ‘hard to reach’ is potentially stigmatising and “absolves the medical systems from holding themselves accountable for not just access, but the quality of health services we provide.”
We have so much in common and so much to learn from each other.