In these circumstances, it is difficult for the annual conference to effectively move a common international agenda. AIDS, especially, ties local culture and customs to national policy and foreign diplomacy, making it hard to integrate ideas and policies that can be advanced internationally.
Perhaps, rather than big goals and rallies for international unity on policies, the conference might be better served to highlight and encourage the diverse local and national efforts taking place. Shining the spotlight around the globe, reviewing countries’ efforts by region, examining barriers and break throughs, affirming and supporting the importance to both AIDS and drug addiction by drilling down, advancing ground level prevention and treatment might produce better results. After all, this year’s best news was local news; the highly successful reduction of infections by South African women who participated in medical trials of anti-retrovirus therapy.
Sweeping, epic, grand proclamations seem to do a disservice to the place where the daily battles are won or lost. Unified accords seem pointless in the end when those suffering around the globe are lost in the sight of accords that really don’t affirm that the local communities are still and will be the front lines in the battle, and the best place to bring successful prevention and change. Decriminalizing drugs will not result in better personal choices, unless support is provided for prevention, whatever the legal status of drug use. Nor will AIDS infection rates drop or treatment rates go up, until resources are directed patient by patient. What is needed is a system whose policy is enlightened by the worth of every human life, despite its homeplace or life style choice.