Just returned from the US Conference on AIDS. I always get emotional at these conferences. Some of it is happiness at seeing the work that’s happening around the country. Much of it is frustration or anger at the ever-diminishing funds, exhaustion at having to explain basic things over and over, despondency at seeing the interconnectedness of all poverty-related issues and not knowing how to extract us from this downward spiral. Then there’s awe at the power and passion of the people who do this work… this last almost makes me cry. I get so worked up listening to these people speak, hearing how much they care, feeling the pain behind their anger, the love behind their jokes. It’s a rejuvenating and depressing thing to attend an AIDS conference. Not in ways that I think people outside the industry would guess at. But there’s a certain level of community here, and I belong to it in a way.
One plenary speaker asked people who had been working in the AIDS field for over 10 years to stand, and I had to stand with a few hundred others. And the people (mostly youth) at my table applauded. Applauded me. It was a little overwhelming to think about doing this for that long. I also know that I have not been front-line for that long… that I did not have the strength of many of the others who were standing. Not to diminish my own work — Just to demonstrate the amazement that I have for so many who are in this field. This is exhausting work. It’s not just work on a disease; it’s social justice work. It’s about combatting all kinds of discrimination, dealing with a hostile administration, finding ways to get people basic things like education and health care and housing. It’s amazing that so many of us — so many who might be unlikely to be allies — would do this for so long.
I think of myself as somewhat (or very) scattered. But there are ways in which I show my staying power.