The Power of Comunitas

As I entered baggage claims at Vienna International Airport, signs of the community of AIDS activists were everywhere. For a brief moment, I was completely overwhelmed.

Thousands of us will be united this week during AIDS2010. Regardless of what we do in our working lives, regardless of where we work, and regardless of the challenges we face in that work, we share a common goal: a world without HIV. A world without stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV. A world without injustice and indignity.

By coming together en masse, we draw attention to the global pandemic which has claimed millions of lives thus far. Far too many lives. We will command the attention of those who do not live daily with the knowledge that countless many are suffering either from illness, lack of treatment or social ostracism. In this space which we occupy and journey to, we are accepted for who we are irregardless of our sero-positive status.

What is most overwhelming about this temporary community is that those of us here represent a fraction of those who daily aim and strive for a world in which the space we occupy here and now is the objective of our activism. As individuals, we may impact the lives of one or a handful of individuals and, if we’re lucky, effect positive change. As a community, we have the power to change the world in which we all live. Not just for ourselves, but for others as well. And, not simply in one city, country or region, but globally.

Because HIV touches upon aspects of society that are often taboo and is linked with behaviors deemed ‘unacceptable’ for a variety of reason, we are forced to tackle stigma and discrimination on a broader scale. Ever-so-slowly, we chip away attempting to limit barriers to understanding and acceptance. Man, woman, gay, straight, transgender, drug user, sex worker, prisoner, black, white, Latino, Asian, rich, poor or simply average. All of us are affected. HIV does not discriminate.

Yet, in this space, we are accepted regardless of any label. We are a single, united community. And that knowledge carries enormous power.

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