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AIDS, loss and renewal

Opening address to the 20th International AIDS Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 20 July 2014

Jonathan Mann, loss and grief

We who gather at this conference in Melbourne are no strangers to cruelty and loss. We know about suffering, irrationality and hatred. We have not been free of these forces for a single day since HIV/AIDS first appeared in our midst 30 years ago.

Every one of us can tell stories about horrible acts and brutal conduct that have added to the misery and danger faced by people living with HIV and by those who love and care for them. We know of people who have died, or are dying, of AIDS; who are seeking love and the human right to respect and to life-saving health care. We know many who are denied justice and human empathy. We are here to affirm that there is another path. We point the way. It is why we have come to Melbourne. It is why we must lift our voices. This is not a time for silence.

In the immediate loss of friends and colleagues who were coming to the conference on MH17, we are reminded, most cruelly, of the earlier death of Jonathan Mann: the first director of the Global Program on AIDS of the World Health Organization. This inspired humanitarian, who did so much to alert the world to the dangers of AIDS, perished with his wife and a plane full of passengers off St John’s, Newfoundland, in 1998. He too was on his way to a conference on AIDS. He too had precious gifts to impart.…