AIDS march: Keep the promise

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There’s been so much build-up, including several pre-conference events, that it’s almost hard to believe the 19th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington DC has only just begun! Rumoured to be the largest health-related event in the world, delegates have been flying in from all over the globe to attend.

Held every two years, the conference has long been a meeting place for researchers, implementers and activists, and this year is no exception. As delegates were gathering in the conference centre and queuing to get into the opening session, the Keep the promise march and rally were getting started just a stone’s throw from the Washington Monument.

The red umbrellas given out by the organisers were put to good use as shade against the fierce afternoon sunshine and they bobbed up and down in appreciation of Wyclef Jean’s performance just before the march set off. Organised under the banner Keep the promise, this was the first of two protests planned for the conference week, with another march due to take place on Tuesday.

People come to this conference for many reasons, but undoubtedly one of the reasons is connecting with other people: feeling strengthened and empowered by sharing experiences and ideas. In an era when HIV activism often means acting within a system – engaging with professional bodies and lobbying politicians – there is something joyful and cathartic about marching together and shouting loud.

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