The Global Village of AIDS 2010 Cheryl Overs
I was co-chair of the Global Village which was a great privilege and pleasure. Everyone was so committed and keen to make the best of the opportunities the Global Village presents. The global Village sessions were amongst the best at the conference. Many of the networking zones were set up as seminar spaces in which very rich discussions were held independently of the conference system for choosing topics and speakers.
The opening ceremony was the highlight of the whole conference for me. We had an ambitious idea to present communities and their messages and it worked as perfectly as chaos can. That no-one expected anything expect chaos was key to its success. This picture of the opening is one of my favourite of the conference, partly because of the faith message at the front. At each conference I meet wonderful people from faith based organisations that make a point of telling us that they oppose the stigma and anti-sex policies that threaten the lives of so many people.
Most of the stress of organising the stage of the Global Village was relieved by Laxmi (Narayan Tripathi) who hosted the Global Village stage each day like the professional she is.
Many people in the Global Village were not registered to enter the main conference so while many conference sessions rooms were cavernously empty ‘community’ people were crowded in to the hot Global Village. Few scientists or key agencies or policy makers interact in the Global Village further than a quick tour. In the case of Michel Sidibe’s visit to the Sex Worker networking Zone this was a very happy opportunity to acknowledge the great steps ahead the UN system has taken in terms of sex work recently.
In their rapporteur report on the Global Village Mario Kleinmoedig and Kate Hawkins echoed many voices concerned about the separation of the Global Village from the rest of the Conference. One such voice from the transgender community expressed a sense of humiliation and stigma about being consigned to a poorly serviced side circus. Certainly the abovementioned rich discussions were taking place with microphones a few metres from each other. Sessions and community dialogue space were not well attended
The market place is highly problematic. It costs tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money which in many cases is a subsidy for a business. And a bad business at that – selling mass produced trinkets that are available all through the world at double the price or more. I question the role of individual income generation in HIV. HIV money that could be spent on treatment, nutrition condoms and health services is diverted to NGOs who buy expensive SUVs plastered with logos and loaded up with paid project officers and worthless handicrafts made by hapless ‘benficiaries’ for some imagined market. To see this writ large in the Global Village year after year is depressing. I know there are some very good, community led income generating projects in countries but its difficult for them to make it to the Global Village. Those who did were overcome and offended by the aggression of more commercial set-ups. Although some market place stalls and people were wonderful, overall I want to see more of people struggling against poverty presenting, demonstrating, questioning and fewer of them begging people to buy overpriced that has needlessly been carted across the globe. I think the Global Village market place has had its day and it should be replaced by a awarding a couple of souvenir/handicrafts stalls positions located in the main conference to suitable organisations
It seems to me that the Global Village is a very worthwhile conference in itself. I find it difficult to see the benefit of it taking place next to a [kind of] scientific confernence. More on that later