Written by Nicolette Strauss, Staff Associate, JSI
In the lead up to the International AIDS Conference, we heard how high level government officials, world-renowned scientists, and activists were all coming together to discuss the future of HIV work. AIDS 2012 was an opportunity for leaders to rally up the troops, brilliant scientists to discuss new results, committed HIV professionals to share best practices, and advocates to discuss their causes. The leaders in the field of HIV were all “Turning the Tide Together.” But there is a lesser discussed group of people who also descended upon Washington, DC for this conference – volunteers!
Many of my fellow volunteers could not secure the funding necessary to purchase an AIDS 2012 registration. Instead of accepting defeat, we looked for whatever way possible to attend, and luckily for us, the organizing committee needed volunteers and we were more than happy to help.
Close to 1,000 volunteers played a vital role in the smooth functioning of this conference. We came from all over the world – India, Rome, Nigeria – and all over the US – Washington, DC, Boston, Ohio, California, and North Carolina. You saw us everywhere with our bright yellow shirts and big smiles. You saw us staff the registration booth, check badges, provide information, and much more. What you might not have seen is that we too work in HIV and are committed to reducing the burden of the disease.
Unlike other conferences, where volunteers may not be particularly interested in the subject-matter, we are an incredibly passionate group of individuals. There is Kim, a professor at Kent State who teaches a class on HIV, and Serge who works for an AIDS service organization in New York City. There is Diane, a public health nurse that does extensive HIV/AIDS education on college campuses, and Ken who is a biomolecular researcher with an interest in novel drugs and treatment strategies.
And then there’s me. I found that the content at the conference related directly to the work I do at JSI. At the mHealth 101 session researchers talked about the potential of using mobile phones to remind people to take their medications. This was exciting to hear because the Every Dose, Every Day project I work on at JSI is currently developing a mobile application to support medication adherence.
We volunteers are diverse in our interests, but united in this one cause of “getting to zero.” In exchange for a couple hours of work, we were given the privilege to attend the conference for free. Given what a great deal it is to volunteer, don’t be surprised to see me scanning your badge and wishing you a “g’day” at the 2014 Melbourne conference.