To start – two.
One - Annie Lennox.
Turns out she is staying in the very hotel I am, yep, don't hate, in the Zona Rosa section of Mexico City, and is here attending the conference. Her latest CD has some HIV advocacy going on, particularly around mother-to-child transmission in South Africa. Listen to “Sing.” And she is all about supporting the HIV work of groups like OXFAM and Treatment Action Campaign... Anyhow, she is sitting there on a couch in the lobby Saturday evening, with two other women, chatting and drinking margaritas.
Your intrepid reporter stationed himself discretely on another banquette and eyeballed the group – Annie looks absolutely fantastic, in a very lesbionic AIDS activist way, super short white blonde shimmery hair (natch) and some kine of Guatemalan frock – too cute. When my friend and colleague David Munar came down to fetch me for our dinner plans in Condesa with CNN pal Matt, he was like, “Let’s go talk to her, let’s get her picture.” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t know, I feel funny, should we, shouldn’t we, should we…” He looked at me like, are you a fool? So he ran up to his room to grab a camera while I maintained my watch, ever so subtly.
So we gave her a National AIDS Strategy t-shirt and chatted her and her gal pals up about the fact that the United States doesn’t have one – a National AIDS Strategy – and that we should have one, especially since we ask donor countries to whom we give PEPFAR dollars to have one. We talked about the new CDC data and how the epidemic is taking its biggest toll on gay men in the United States. Ideological strings, George Bush, the Iraq war and related AIDS-y talk. No picture though. “Any other time I would say yes, but I really am too tired for pictures right now,” she said. ‘I’m going to be at the hotel all week…” (so now you know, that pic above was not taken by us...)
We aint mad. We got 15 minutes with Annie Lennox!
And we’re going to be lying in wait for you Missy! Kodak Brownie at the ready!!
Two - Elizabeth Pisani.
Author of one of my favorite books – "The Wisdom of Whores – Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS”. So the International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA – my little IRMA) and the Caucus for Evidence-Based Prevention are doing a little gig – tonight actually – called “A Conversation with Elizabeth Pisani.”
Her book is a kumbaya-free must read for anyone in the HIV/AIDS field. It openly challenges you to re-examine your turf in “AIDS.inc," wherever your spot on the trough may be, and seriously question the billions of dollars being spent in the service of… what, exactly? Pisani’s take is that prevention, specifically prevention among gay men, injection drug users, and sex workers, is horribly neglected due to the questionable global strategy of making AIDS “everyone’s problem.” This generalization doesn’t hold true in most of the world, she says, and governments and funders have used it to spend their largesse among those least at risk, conveniently ignoring the politically unpopular messiness of sex, gay sex and drugs. Pisani's blunt account spares no one and offers all of us a chance to reflect on the current state of funding priorities for HIV prevention.
We thought it would be cool to hook something up to talk about the issues explored in the book during the International AIDS Conference.
So, okay, yesterday my Caucus counterpart, the lovely Sonia Kandathil, and I were trying to connect with Elizabeth, for a planned din din the three of us were going to have Sunday night to talk about the event, and having NO, zero, NADA luck. The local phone number she gave us wasn’t working so well, and she had limited at best internet access, and horrors upon luddite horrors, she doth had no CrackBerry! So, with no foreseeable way to communicate with La Liz and with our event coming the next day, and wanting to make sure we all knew what we were doing, and lalalalala, Sonia and I were starting to do a slow freak out panic type of thing. “What are we gonna do? How are we going to find her?"
OMG. OMG. OMG.
Sonia had a meeting to go to, and I wanted to hit the Media Center to do some very important blogging, so we said, well, why don’t we just take a quick walk around and see if we find her? We have seen her picture several times, yeah, and so there are like 25,000 people here, but ya never know, we may just bump into her. Sonia had run into an old college roommate from 18-years past so it wasn’t TOTALLY insane to think we could bump into Epi-Diva Pisani just hanging out among tens of thousands of people in a space the size of O’Hare. Sure, why not.
Well, you've seen a movie like this, you know how this story ends. We did exactly that – we ran right into her. She was coming at us down a long hall the size of an airplane hangar and I was like, “She wouldn’t be down this hall” and Sonia was like, “Wait, look. Is that her, no that’s not her.” And I was all like, “Hmmm, wait, no, but maybe, wait, that kinda looks like her, I want to read her name badge.” We were two total weirdos, eyeballing and squinting and otherwise sizing up this very small woman bounding down the hall on a mission, and who does it turn out to be but La Liz. AMAZING. RANDOM. So, we made plans to meet for dinner, Sonia ran off to her meeting, and La Liz and I ran off to a fascinating session on the Swiss Declaration.
Interesting side note - at one point in her career, Elizabeth spent some time in East Timor. She had ONE compact disc to listen to, and it became her lifeline, the music that helped her survive. Guess who? ANNIE!
I will write more about that session - do your homework first and click the hotlink and read up about it on the gay, sexy, healthy LifeLube blog - and will tell you all about our little thingie tonight.
Oh, BTW, I made it to Mexico City!