It's only partly -- and really not very much -- a scientific meeting. It's really a politico-ideological circus. The halls are full of demonstrators, die-ins, street theater. People who don't like something a speaker has to say will march through the room chanting and carrying banners. Activists look forward to it as an opportunity to put on a show. For example, here's a bit of one e-mail I received:
Meet us tomorrow to join the largest street mobilzation on HIV/AIDS this century! First we'll rally at AIDS 2012 global village booth 806, 11:15-11:30 am, then meet busloads of protesters at 9th and K streets.
Here's more information on what we are doing. See you soon! And click here if you want to volunteer at our beautiful Human Rights / Justice Zone in the FREE Global Village!
THOUSANDS MOVE FROM THE IAC CONFERENCE
AND TAKE TO STREETS DEMANDING ACTION
The fact is, HIV is not just a virus. It seems like a perfectly designed experiment to expose profound cultural problems and force people to respond to them. Intense political and social controversy has swarmed around it since the disease now called AIDS was first noticed among gay men in New York and Los Angeles in 1981. AIDS was absolutely devastating to gay communities, but it forced them to mobilize openly. It created organizations, solidarity, visibility, and yes, compassion on the part of many people even though it generated stigma, victim blaming, and paranoia on the part of others.
Ultimately, in spite of the terrible cost, there is a compelling historical argument to be made that without HIV, we would not have had the profound cultural transformation which has broken down the pervasive stigma and discrimination against homosexuals, brought real acceptance and progress toward equality, and is well on the way toward creating true legal equality. We sure aren't there yet but even 10, heck 5 years ago if you'd told me where we'd be today, I would have said you were nuts.
I'll let you know whatever interesting stuff I encounter at the conference.