An Evening of Inspiration
Last night I had the honor of attending an event – hosted by UNAIDS, ONE, the Business Leadership Council, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation – called Uniting for an AIDS-Free Generation. The special evening brought together heroes in the fight against AIDS to celebrate the return of the International AIDS Conference to the United States for the first time in more than two decades.
It was just my second day in Washington, D.C., but the music and speeches made it feel like a true welcome to the conference. Artists including Annie Lennox, Joan Osborne, Alicia Keys, Herbie Hancock, and the African Children’s Choir graced the stage and inspired us with their powerful voices.
Speakers like Vicky Kennedy, Bill Gates, John McGrue of the Business Leadership Council, Rep. Barbara Lee, Michel Sidibe, and others shared inspiring words – recognizing our hard work over the past three decades, and the work that still lies ahead.
During the evening, heroes were acknowledged for achievements in the fight against AIDS. And we celebrated some of our major successes - discovering drugs to save the lives of those affected early on in the epidemic, eliminating pediatric AIDS in the developed world, expanding access to lifesaving HIV prevention, care, and treatment services around the world.
We also committed to the goals ahead – an HIV-free generation, access to care and treatment for all, and most importantly, a cure.
But we were reminded of what we need to do to make it happen - including the continuity of funding, private sector support, and strong leadership.
A special moment in the evening was when Barbara Bush, daughter of President George W. Bush, Kweku Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, and Jake Glaser, son of Elizabeth Glaser, took the stage.
Together, these young leaders represented a new population of advocates, continuing the influential work of their families. They spoke about their desire to continue the efforts of those in the room, and their confidence in their peers to make our goals for an AIDS-free world a reality.
Seeing them together was a highlight to me as a mother. My daughter, Nomthunzi, would have been 16 this year, and a part of that passionate group of advocates if she were with us today. I know she was there in spirit, fighting with us.
While the evening left me inspired for the week of work ahead, what really stuck with me was that never once during the evening was one specific race, culture, or community singled out. The event didn’t show that AIDS was an African issue or an American issue. It didn’t speak only to AIDS among people of a particular race, economic status, or sexual orientation.
Instead, the event illustrated our unified efforts in the global fight against AIDS. So often in my work as an activist and advocate, I see people put an emphasis on specific populations, bringing stigma and shame to those infected and affected. It was encouraging to see a group of people from different countries, backgrounds, and experiences, joining together to commit to ending AIDS.
It gave me hope that together we can turn the tide against this disease.