In the crowded plenary room, AIDS 2014 opened on 20 July 2014 in Melbourne, a ceremony that was bitter sweet and sombre mood in light of the MH17 tragedy. Hosted by Chinese journalist and UN Goodwill Ambassador James Chau, began with Lambert Grijns, Dutch ambassador for sexual health and HIV rights, paying respect to his fellow delegates who died on the Malaysian Airlines flight that was shot down in Ukraine on Friday.
The ceremony continued with speakers highlighting the need to step up the pace on the global fight against HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and to raise awareness and education on HIV prevention and treatment.
Ayu Oktariani from Indonesia led a procession of people living with HIV from South East Asia and the Pacific in traditional dress.She spoke of her personal experiences of being diagnosed with AIDS and the stigma and discrimination she faced.
“Many of us got HIV because we did not have the means to protect ourselves,” she said.
She went on to rally for people living with HIV and AIDS to get involved, highlighting that it cannot be just left to science.
“We need people living with HIV in the response,” she said.