My AIDS 2020 Virtual conference Musings and Reflections by Laura Thoa, Kenya
Updated: Sep 18, 2020
The year, 2020 began with so much of hope. A dawn of a new year, ‘new me’ kind of vibe. Travel plans, conference aspirations. I knew that this year I would grace the AIDS 2020 conference in San Francisco and Oakland, and would be my first time ever in the US. Of course, seven months down the line this was not the case due to a global pandemic – COVID-19 which was also inspired the birth of AIDS 2020 Virtual. Personally, the journey within this year has been a huge bout of self-discovery, creating routines and falling off from them almost as soon as I began, working from home, social distancing, sanitizing, more digital interactions and less human interactions especially with family and friends. A new normal. The new normal. It has truly been eye-opening, yet, reckoning at its times. I however, am glad to share my resilience story that even through a global pandemic, it has been an intense soul-searching session, well deserved and needed, and rewarding, to say the least.
My reflections around the conference are influenced mostly by the circumstances that have pushed us into a virtual world. It felt truly different! I longed for an actual conference, meeting new people and colleagues at an auditorium is always a plan, exciting in fact. I however had to attend this conference for the effort that was put in it and the rich resources that came with it! The time zones had it for me though, very confusing but it needed a level of organization and planning, of which we had done at the ICW media team, enough of planning and now into execution, which was now the conference.
Since the time-zone dictated that most of my sessions would be at the end of the day, I knew that it would be a challenge for me so I set myself to make it up to the next day. My interest in the conference mostly was learning about new ART interventions and anything that centres itself around adolescent sexual reproductive health and AYPLHIV. Women issues around HIV service provision and even access and delivery of services were some of my choices of sessions. My key highlights include learning that there exists an organization that works with grandmothers on HIV and I truly thought that this is an untapped space where in Africa, a lot of grandmothers bear the burden of taking care of their grandchildren, who are termed as orphans and vulnerable children after their children succumb to HIV-related death.
It’s important to note that this session was close to my heart especially as a young woman living with HIV whose mother succumbed to HIV-related complications at age 8 and was raised by my grandmother who was truly clueless on how to raise a child, adolescent and consequently a young person living with HIV. It was a thought-provoking session, wondering who does think about this elderly population that is often burdened in a pandemic that threatens the youth of the generation? The elderly is a population at risk of infections, currently even at bigger risk of COVID-19, due to a weaker immunity. Do we need to take the conversation down to the levels of the elderly giving care to children living with HIV, especially now that they are even more vulnerable to COVID-19?
In conclusion, my experience at the AIDS 2020 conference was educative, thought-provoking at the same time I was just very inspired by the resilience shown by all that organized and were able to attend. My attendance was daunted by a streak of digital fatigue, but it was truly worth it to see even my colleagues representing and creating conversations around HIV as always.
Thank you for your generous support for the ICW Young Women's Media Team.