ADRIENNE'S HIV BLOG – Hivine's Weblog

HIVINE is written by HIV positive women but still with a sense of humour

Archive for August, 2008

The Halo Project – Mexican Diary

The Halo Project

Well, the indefatigable Rob (alias Phil Mitchell of market stall fame) managed to pull off the scoop of scoops at a press conference today by getting the wonderful Annie Lennox to pose in my tee-shirt, especially designed for Body Positive North West for Mexico to promote our positive women’s services – how good was that!

This resulted in the birth of the HALO Project, a human rights campaign aimed at raising HIV/AIDS awareness in regard to the millions of HIV positive women who have to try to live a normal life whilst carrying the added burden of this anti-social disease.

The design on the tee-shirt represents hope, faith and humour, qualities which every HIV positive woman needs to possess, in order to survive in a world which unfortunately is still filled with stigma and prejudice and forces many of us to live invisible lives, cowering behind the doors of false shame and feared, as well as only too often experienced, public condemnation.

The ultimate goal of the HALO project is to campaign for the basic human right of every woman, whether HIV positive or not, to be able to love, work, contribute and celebrate their lives with dignity and respect, without fear of being condemned by societies miscomprehension and lack of support.

Every woman who bought a HALO tee-shirt at the conference from then on agreed to send a photograph of themselves wearing the HALO tee-shirt from all parts of the globe, as a mark of support and consolidarity for the HALO campaign, which when we get back will be featured on the BP website.

The other campaign dear to my heart and which I also want to promote is HIV testing. Have the test – know your status and maybe save your own life. Many people are dying from AIDS related causes without even knowing that they have been carrying the virus.

People think you don’t die from AIDS anymore. Yes, it may be true that with the benefit of the medication that unfortunately only some of us are lucky enough to have access to, you don’t die – but you die inside.

Knowing that you are HIV positive is like a light going out inside you.

The Halo project, with your support, will hopefully keep that little light burning bright.

If you want to take part in the project or for any further information contact Emma at info@bpnw.org.uk or click on the BODY POSITIVE NORTH WEST link on the blogroll.

Heidi Hi – Mexican Diary

Stomach playing up today from minging meat downed at ultimate hora at cantina last night, mixed with usual nightcap of salty margaritas. Missed bus to global village and arrived late to find market stall transformed into mini china town, with dangling dragons and tasselled trinkets by Carlitos and his lovely girlfriend who had flown in from Beijing as delegate representing China’s positive women.

On my appearance, the two lovebirds immediately flew the nest, leaving poor ‘no Peggys Mitchell’ to man stall alone, as others had gone to lecture featuring Bill (Cling on)Clinton. Neatness and order of stall threw one into total confusion and to be truthful, was slightly peeved at lovebirds for flitting nest as forced to miss women’s workshop wanted to attend, and instead, had to alternative between routing around in huge black suitcases to find right tee-shirt sizes and occasionally having to abandon stall in hurry to rush to portaloo.

In quieter moments, although few and far between has to be said, managed to read daily newsletter and various articles picked up day before. Lots of stuff about women, which gladdens heart and makes activist rise up in me – must be careful however, don’t want anything else to rise up, like minging meat for example.

Big article on women’s rights and HIV in daily newsletter – Mujeres Adelante – prounced moo hairies, or backwards, hairy moos – wonder if that’s where Alf Garnett coined the phrase?

Hilda Esquivel National Representative of ICW Mexico wrote – “Every day the HIV and AIDS epidemic takes on more of a woman’s face. It is calculated that in Mexico there are about 42 thousand women with HIV – mothers, professional’s, widows, mothers of positive children, wives, peasants, women deprived of their freedom etc. Historically, women have been discriminated against, marginalised and assaulted, and in the case of those living with HIV, this makes it more difficult to attend the problems they face. Fortunately HIV positive women have started to organise themselves with the aim of improving their life expectancy; improving the quality of prevention and care; improving their quality of life; as well as being present in decision-making arenas that affect their lives.
Invisibility, silence and indifference will end when the brave, convinced and strong women with HIV and those who recognize their vulnerability to it, have their views heard!”

Well said and very true. 42 thousand positive women in Mexico – so many.

When Phil Mitchell i.e. Rob and Pat Butcher, who does not take kindly to her market stall holder title and to be fair does not wear huge earrings, (but is very tall and can be quite imposing at times in line with her position of CE) finally came back, suitably incensed after Bill Cling on Clinton’s lecture, was able to escape and wander around Global Village. When guilt finally forced reluctant return, got chatting to beautiful Mexican girl on next stall from region can’t spell but pronounced whackhacka; admired glittering flowered Frieda Kahlo styled headdress and ended up buying it to wear on wagon at forthcoming Manchester PRIDE celebration. Gleefully pinned it on self, but beautiful Mexican girl, now bereft of headdress, not happy about haphazard style of wearing it, neither girl’s bossy whackhacka mother, so two of them, plus old whackhacka granny, who had been hiding behind rows of ponchos, crowded into what was already cramped booth, where was ordered to put head between legs, whilst three of them attacked thinning hair and plaited it into Mexican version of corn rows, all time, whackhacka granny shouting directions from side of toothless mouth.

Twas very complicated business, such a hairstyle needs many family members to partake in creation of – so hairstyle no good if come from dysfunctional nuclear family. Definitely no good for me, as son won’t even hold hairdryer to help me dry hair – say’s its gay. Mexican daughter proud owner of very fat healthy looking plaits, but mine pathetic, more like old ladies plaits, very thin, like proverbial piglet tails, or those worn by balding Hell’s Angels. Very thin pathetic plaits, once tightly woven, pinned uncomfortably round head in circular fashion with steely hair grips. Mirror held up and was admired by one and all, but strange reflection was not me – have never had tidy hairstyle in entire life. Was not comfortable with new look, but American with big camera asked to take photo of me at smoking point – very Frieda Kahlo with fag in hand, but unlike Frieda, eyebrows do not join in middle, neither do have moustache, at least black one, thanks to Jolen cream bleach.

Worried about old lady plaits though, as recently have started to carry handbag over arm like Les Dawson and developed unsettling tendency to hitch up bosoms.

Walked all way to main conference building to PLWHIV lounge, in other words, only positive people allowed to enter, where can enjoy free food and twenty minute comfort massage, or lie down on white leather sofa bed for half an hour. Lay tentatively down on low, white bed to rest weary legs, but due to sheer amount of knackered positive people, had to share bed and was forced to lie top to toe with Naomi Cambell look alike, so couldn’t truly relax in case she suddenly woke up and attacked me – also headdress definitely not accommodating for sleep, not to mention fact Naomi was snoring.

On way back noticed booth with ‘Hairdressers Working for AIDS’, where stylists were offering free cuts and blow dries. Would love to have got locks done for nothing by top Mexican stylist, but wouldn’t dare risk wrath of whackhacka granny and family by unplaitting plaits. Instead, passed by action mural painting of Australian woman painter from Bali, who have befriended in hope of invitation to magical island. Did twirl to demonstrate new hairstyle, but new friend decidely not impressed. “Think I know you well enough by now,” said with broad Australian accent, “To say that it’s a bit Heidi.”

Back at stall, very loud Mexican music issuing from next door. Headressless daughter immediately plowed through ponchos to rearrange hairstyle, force more grips in, so plaitts wouldn’t come out in night (worse luck). Started to dance around a bit to music, so asked her to show me some steps. Mother and sister emerged from swaying ponchos to join in, then father and uncle materialised to show off knee bends, Russian style, which for me, rotting hips, not to mention knee joints, wouldn’t permit. Ended up with all stall holders from aisle joining in the fun, including our very own Carlitos, who gave good impression of wild dishevelled Morris dancer, waving his shorts at lovely Chinese girlfriend in bizarre mating ritual fashion.

Met very nice woman from other Body Positive, but nothing to do with us, in New Zealand, who has recently been featured in a very brave campaign to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS along with three other positive female colleagues, by speaking out and advertising their campaign by having faces on backs of buses. Although admire them greatly, would be wary of doing similar thing back home in Blackburn for fear of having comparison made to having face like back of bus.

Talking of buses, must get some sleep, old ladies plaits permitting, in order to catch bus back to global village at crack of dawn. Maybe could just undo a few clips?

Aint No Stopping Me Now – Mexican Diary

Even though was looking rough and wrinkled from lack of sleep and too many margaritas the night before, had my photo taken for Bruno Spire’s of the French campaign AIDES – Reject Aids not HIV-Positive Persons. The objective of this campaign is, ‘to remind the general public that HIV positive persons are still suffering stigmatisation and discrimination and to raise the general public’s awareness in order to spark reflection and, eventually, encourage a change in attitude towards diseased persons.’

Not too sure I like the term ‘diseased persons,’ but suppose you have to call a spade a spade. Not sure either what the word for spade is in French, but the Spanish word is espada, which sounds more like a man’s aftershave or a designer range of clothes.

The call an espada an espada campaign is centred on advertisements presenting portraits of VIPs (mainly French it has to be said) from the worlds of music, sports or TV with the odd touch of royal blood as in Her Royal Highness Crown Princess of Norway thrown in for good measure – and now me of course, the blog queen of hivonia, which sounds a bit messy, rather like my hairstyle, although I am sure the celebs for their portraits had their famous locks especially styled and their wrinkles airbrushed out, whilst mine remain in all their glory, until I can convince my doc, for psychological reasons, to let me undergo a course of ‘newfill’, which is a kind of botox for positive people to repair the fat wasting effects of lipodostrophy.

The involvement of these high profile celebs and lesser known non French activists like myself, is aimed at stressing the absurdity of the discrimination HIV positive persons are facing and to make the general public think about situations of avoidance, rejection or stigmatisation. It would be a good idea in order to reduce stigma and in an attempt to stop AIDS, if someone started the same kind of campaign here. I could do it, as there cetainly aint no stopping me now in my new found, as opposed to newfill, role as an activist.

There aint no stopping ADES – in both senses and both spellings of the word, unless we all become more aware of the dangers and to get on my bandwagon, more people get tested.

The whole of Mexico seems to be getting in on the HIV/AIDS act – the shops, the bars, the hotels, which are using AIDS in their promotion, such as ‘Hotels Atendiendo el Sida’ and many people are sporting the red ribbon, even the waiters in the restaurant we ate at tonight. On their menu there were even facts and helpful information laid out amongst the tacos and enchiladas to help diners avoid ‘catching’ AIDS. For example –

“Did you know that the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV produce an infection in the human bean that could promote AIDS.”

No need to worry however back home in England if you are a human bean lover, I think you are still perfectly safe with your can of Heinz or Cross and Blackwell, but not too sure about the Mexican version we were about to eat, which had been deep fried – on more than one occasion I fear.

“The HIV virus is not stransmitted trough shake of hand, hug, kiss or for sharing workspaces and is not transmitted trough mosquito bite. No from food.”

Well, they had to put that didn’t they, being a restaurant and a crap one at that. We’d had to settle for the only restaurant in Mexico City that wasn’t full of other knackered and ravenous delegates.

“The stigma and discrimination to people living with HIV impacts negatively in their health, perhaps of violet their human rights.”

I don’t know about poor Violet, but I think it will be more a case of the refried beans reacting negatively, at least on my health tommorrow. Never mind waterloo, it will be portaloo here I come and definitely a case of aint no stopping me now.

To find out more about the portrait campaign visit – http://www.aides.org

Mad Mexican Cowgirl!

Think must have caught a chill from yesterdays soaking – woke up in night in big luxurious bed with hacking cough – was warned about possible breathing problems for people with dodgy chests in information pack, due to high altitude, made worse presumably by big luxurious bed being half way to moon in high rise tower block.

Routed around in mini bar and found pack of soothing sweets to suck on called ‘Jolly Ranchers.’ Stuck one in mouth and thanks to jet lag, immediately dropped back off. Woke up next morning at six with alarm clock beeping away, stuck tongue out at oneself in huge magnifying mirror, as one does, and jumped back in alarm. Tongue bright blue. Turquoise even. Tried to scrub tongue with toothbrush, but no luck. Could strange coloured tongue have been caused by new meds, some of which are bright blue? Had pills gone off on route, not been kept, even with freezer bags, at correct temperature?

Had been warned about yellow eyes, but blue tongue?

Can’t make first public appearance as delegate, or even market stall holder, with yellow eyes and blue tongue. Then remembered falling asleep with sweet in mouth.

Moral – one which every American or Mexican mother worth her salt will instil in her daughter from the day she is born – never fall asleep sucking on a jolly rancher, not if you don’t want to wake up with a blue tongue and mad cowgirl disease, or something that looks like the equivalent of foot and mouth.

Felt like a mad cow as it was, walking around on wobbly legs and banging into things, due to long journey and jet lag – as well as tower block appearing to move and sway (which apparently high buildings do) beneath one’s feet. Swear whole of Mexico is moving and constantly rumbling from so much traffic, too many people etc. unless tis beginnings of another earthquake of course. Not allowed to mention earthquakes – people tend to cross themselves, a bit like saying Macbeth in the theatre, or whistling on a boat incase you bring on the wind. No need to whistle with these new meds by the way – a blue tongued, yellow eyed delegate with the wind, not a very inspiring picture is it.

Not keen on lifts either, especially when it is thundering and lightening – what if power gets cut off and am stuck in lift on eighteenth floor. Think will carry extra meds with me at all times just in case.

Wonderful breakfast buffet – cactus juice, passion fruit, Mexican styled eggs, huevos rancheros – think will pass on those case have same effect as jolly ranchers.

Head off with rest of team through busy walkway and rows of market stalls selling steaming tacos and brightly coloured fruits and drinks, which have been advised not to buy. Shame. Get on bus to Global Village, very early in morning but thousands of delegates and stall holders heading to conference. Bus takes forever – tooting horns, whistling policemen (must be suffering from wind too) green Volkswagen taxis, dilapidated wagons, people risking lives trying to sell things in middle of road – chewing gum, batteries. Not polluted as had feared, air crystal clear, sunny but fresh. Bus chugs along, often stuck in tooting horns traffic jam and finally arrives at global village, which is in the Las Americas Hippodrome. Nearly bowled over by bustling life and vibrancy of throngs of people from all over the globe which greets us as we walk through enormous marquee and locate our promotion booth. Bongos bonging, people dancing, groups of people already protesting, different costumes. Indian, African, Asian, Mexican.

We find our booth and start to set up – oh no, disaster, have failed in my first and most important duty as delegate for BP, left washing line and clothes pegs back at hotel, therefore cannot peg out tee-shirts. Spread them out on table in total disorganised confusion and people start buying them right away. We have tee shirts designed by each group representing Body Positive – the children, the gay men, the blood borne virus group and positive women of course, designed by me, plus postcards and brochures to promote our services and our pilot project the POCT Rapid HIV testing.

Poor Rob, or Phil Mitchell as he was later to be christened due to hairstyle, or lack of hairstyle and natural eastender market stall holder talents, had to get back on bus to collect pegs and washing line from my suitcase in hotel. Missed opening ceremony thanks to peg delay, but was able to catch bits of it on huge screen in global village. Mexican ballet with wide swirly skirts – have to get one of those and maybe get chance to learn some Mexican dancing – don’t think there will be much hope of that, so much to do, so much to see and learn, so many people to talk to. There are plenarys, workshops and seminars all day long, from seven o’clock in morning.

No Peggys Mitchell (i.e. me) abandons others on market stall and slips out to smoking point – good job she didn’t give up smoking as meets all kinds of interesting people out there having a fag. Bob Monkhouse for example, a name one wouldn’t easily forget, but not in ghost form, this Bob was from Bali with his carer, a lovely Balinese girl, both from an HIV centre in Bali – invitation to visit for something to do with HIV/AIDS next year. Always wanted to go to Bali, always wanted to come to Mexico and here I am. Strange how HIV is opening up my world. This is amazing, to be with all these people, many of them also positive, as well as those fighting for the cause.

The Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon helped to officially open the Conference at the Global Village which is described as a space for communities living with and affected by HIV, as well as policymakers, researchers and the general public to share information and ideas about the pandemic. While at the Village, the Secretary-General and his wife, Ban Soon-taek heard from people who are infected with HIV in an interactive discussion. He emphasized that the people he had met were at the heart of the AIDS response, and he told them, “I profoundly admire your courage and commitment.” He called for renewed leadership in eradicating stigma and discrimination associated with HIV.

Hear, hear!

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with the president, Ban commended Mexico for providing regional leadership in the response to the AIDS pandemic, including the president’s call to combat all forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination and for an end to homophobia.

Absolutely – an end to HIV related stigma, seems to be one of the main focuses of the conference as well as issues relating to HIV positive women.

A note here from Fiona Petitt of ICW, International Community of Women living with HIV/AIDS, of which I am also very proud to be a member. “Mony Pen, a long time ICW member and founder of the Positive Women’s Network in Cambodia, was chosen to speak at the opening ceremony. You can see pictures of her if you go to think link http://www.flickr.com/photos/aids2008/page4/ At past conferences there has been justified outrage about where the speaker representing people living with HIV is in the programme – oftentimes they have been at the very end. This time, Mony was placed after Peter Piot and before the ex-president of Botswana spoke – a huge improvement.”

It was great to meet up with Fiona and also Silvia from POZ – FEM at the conference.

Back on the bus and back to the hotel. Two margaritas later then bed – legs still swaying, not helped I fear by consummation of alcohol. Could hardly get key or card in door, was so tired, head buzzing with information, all the new people had met, bloody tee-shirts flashing before eyes and the margaritas making bed appear to spin. Won’t be sucking on any Jolly Ranchers tonight, needless to say.

Wham Bam Thank You Mam


Mexico City, here I come. Two hour delay at Manchester airport before even set off. Of course, hadn’t slept a wink the night before, far too excited. Made decision that on stroke of midnight, would no longer be a filthy, anti social smoker.
‘Am now a person who no longer smokes,’ told myself triumphantly as we left house at 4am and son drove me to airport, then waved mother goodbye, telling her to have safe trip and really good time.
Strolled through sliding doors, feeling sorry for pitiful huddle of filthy, anti social smokers, hiding behind pillars, having last drag before entering clean air policy, smoke free zone. Didn’t bother me in slightest, in fact felt superior – smug.
Met up with rest of party from Body Positive who were flying more or less same time, but different route via New York and Houston. Took charge of one very large black suitcase, bearing tee shirts designed by group members of BP.

Delta – American airline – American hostess offering, tea, coffee, wadder.
Bit worried about eight hour flight, claustrophobia don’t you know, can handle two hours, but eight – that’s nearly half a day. Forced to pretend was on bus. Bus wobbling around bit too much for ones liking – bus conductress offering mam more tea coffee wadder. Mam just wanted to ring bell and get off. Not good idea at thirty thousand feet.

Bus driver announces now flying over Reykjavik – sounded Russian. Sneaked quick look at map in back of in flight mag, was tip of Iceland – thought was bitterly cold draught from window – explains why all issued with blanket, even though middle of day. Progress of bus on screen now pointing to Canada. Seemed long way round to me, but in hands of Delta bus driver now.

Announcement – Do not congregate in area of lavatory, pronounced lav ate oreee.
lav ate oreeee constantly occupied – in constant flush mode like a menopausal woman. Luckily, those days long gone for me, but concerned about bowels and loosening effects of new meds. What if have to go in hurry? Doc issued three packs of Imodium before set off; have them in handbag at ready. Been on bus now for six hours – feet starting to swell. Wish had bought some of those special socks, considered at last minute wearing some of son’s, but not very elegant.

Eventually bus lands in Atlanta – or ATLANDER as is pronounced. Filled in dreaded immigration form on route; importing snails, not that was aware of unless had odd slug from garden on bottom of shoe, more than ten thousand dollars – chance would be fine thing. Mental problems or a communicable disease- uncanny how the two things are linked together – yes, boldly tick box. Under normal circumstances would be sent back at border, but due to waiver, am allowed to set diseased foot on American soil. Feeling of power that this time at least, cannot be turned away.

Feeling of power quickly diminished by intimidating row of officers of law with attitude – move along there, step into line mam. Aged British Legion fellow in blazer hot on my heels under misconception knew what queue to join – didn’t have clue. In view of age and decrepitude of said aged man, lifted barrier so didn’t have to walk all way round. Big black policewoman, hand on weapon, immediately on case – git back in line there mam, have committed punishable offence.
Missed bits off form, so had to go to back of queue, start all over again. Reason for entering United States demanded guard, eyes locking on ticked box declaring was infected alien carrying communicable disease.
‘Delegate,’ told him proudly, ‘in transit to Mexico for 2008 World AIDS Conference.’
Machine clocked iris, hand print, thumb print – will never be allowed back now have availed them of unsavoury details about health. Don’t care, don’t want to come back, too frightening – would probably end up on death row for sneezing or blowing nose as in case of HIV positive man recently jailed for spitting – spit being regarded here in certain states as deadly weapon.

Got lost in huge terminal trying to find right gate. Staggered aboard very fast train – felt remains of bottom wobbling, even though no longer have one. Forced to surmount huge escalator, vertigo from meds nearly making me keel over – hot, wish hadn’t brought long purple coat, in fact why had I? Dying of thirst, dodgy stomach, no dollars but, surprise, surprise, a smoking room no less – somehow managed to resist temptation to slink inside. You are a person who no longer smokes, told myself smugly.
Boarded plane to Orlando, felt bit faint, asked hostess for glass of wadder, said mam couldn’t be served till after plane took off – informed her might be sick – ignored me, far too busy being comedienne of airways.
“Is very hot on board folks, so either tug on overhead vents or keep mouths closed.”
Went down like lead balloon.
“The cabin crew will now be serving complimentary drinks and snacks, but if you want to, you can pay for them.”
“If peanuts don’t tickle your fancy, how about a knuckle sandwich?”
Someone put a gag on her.
Still haven’t got my wadder – will pretend to throw up just to annoy her. Look for sick bag in pocket – Delta slogan written on sick bag totally fitting considering in flight meals – ‘I’ll be back.’

Starting descent to Orlando – weird looking place dotted with sluggish looking ponds and steaming lakes. Was told had to collect suitcases. Take train to baggage reclaim, find carousel – no free trolleys would you believe, haven’t accounted for that, only Mexican pesos in pocket. Tried to swap pesos, no luck; slip peso note in change machine, machine spits it back out – my life for single dollar coin. How to transport two heavy suitcases plus carry on to next terminal without trolley? Ah ha, spy empty wheelchair with very wide seat, luckily Americans have big bottoms. Could wheel suitcases to next terminal on that.

Stand at carousel with hands on handles of wheelchair, waiting for suitcases to appear. Atlanta flight still up on screen with flight number, so continue to wait. Flight just arrived from Ireland, cries of, ‘mammy, mammy,’ as opposed to mam abound. Still no suitcases.

Airline official spots me, raises angry eyebrow, shakes finger and motions me to put wheelchair or ‘carriage’ back – explain about no change etc. could official help. No, couldn’t, just kept telling me to put carriage back. Got angry myself, have blue badge told her, rotting hip, anyway is ridiculous having to pay for trolley in airport, would never happen in England. Get even angrier, unless somebody can change me pesos am refusing to let go of carriage, challenge her. Official locks eyes with me then with American sigh, relents.
‘Okay, okay mam, you can keep carriage,’ she shuffles off wearily.

Wait expectantly with carriage, ignoring disgusted looks from trolley less fellow passengers. Cases still don’t appear, eventually give up and regretfully abandon carriage, wishing could just get in carriage myself and be pushed. Instead, forced to walk miles and miles trying to find right terminal. Get on what appears to be driverless tram, arrive at gate too late. Flight already gone to Mexico City without me. Not a Delta representative in sight, get back on tram, return to previous terminal. No representatives there either, so get back on tram, this time not only has tram got no driver, but no other passengers, only me. Ghost tram whizzes back along rails through dark night. Suddenly feel totally isolated. Not a soul knows where I am – not even me.

Airport practically deserted by this time, find lone rep on her way home, clutch onto sleeve and start blubbering. Informs me no flights to Mexico City till tomorrow night, have to fly me back to Atlanta. ‘We have very distressed lady here,’ she informs big lesbian cowgirl in charge of ticket sales, who is forced to reopen her desk. Very distressed lady now in floods when finds out has to stay in Orlando for night in hotel. Luckily cowgirl takes fancy to me. Gives me voucher for hotel and ticket back to Atlanta for next morning.

Git Back on the tram mam

Bit like that film ‘Groundhog Day,’ where everything keeps repeating itself.

Walk more miles, can’t find right office, everything shut for night, feet burning, finally find someone to ask – locate office, join queue of angry people who have also missed connections. Feel have been queuing all my life. Oh no, is unhelpful ‘can’t have carriage’ woman again. Doesn’t like me, don’t think anyone does – don’t think anyone likes anyone in these parts. Finally, am tossed man’s overnight soap bag and
ordered to find taxi to said hotel. Hotel taxi driver tries to separate me from carry on, which contains supply of meds. Refuse to be separated, can’t have carry ons in taxi mam, he snarls, health and safety. Finally gives in after brief battle and allows mam to sit with it clutched between knees.

Tis swelteringly, hot, humid air, drove passed swamps and alligator filled ponds. Hotel, no food, would have to take taxi to Benny’s or Henny’s or Lenny’s, partially deaf in both ears by this time. No more taxis, I proclaim, anyway hotel taxi driver extremely pissed off with me after carry on battle also because didn’t leave tip. Room service I enquire – no room service mam. Something from snack bar perhaps? Not in line with company policy mam.
This is f*****in ridiculous, I swear, totally fed up, tired etc. Shocked faces look back at me. Quickly apologize for swearing, in case am arrested or fed to alligators. After several phone calls to management, finally permit me to buy cold drink from snack bar and frozen pizza slice to put in microwave in room. Went outside and braved swampy air – broke no smoking rule and lit up soothing camel. Was no longer a person who no longer smoked. Found spooky room, stupid microwave refused to work. Forced to go to bed hungry. Left pizza in microwave – hope it rots.
Tried to send text message to others, but phone let me down – last text message from them, stuck in Houston – from that moment forth was a lost soul, flitting backwards and forwards across America, a lone pioneer with a communicable disease on foreign soil.

Ordered taxi for 4 am. Back to airport, usual two mile trek, surmounting mountainous elevators, forced to grit teeth and hang on for dear life, vertigo caused by meds nearly making legs keel over. Board plane back to Atlanta – felt all wrong, was going backwards, retracing steps.

Finally manage to get on right plane and after three hour flight land in Mexico City. Join special queue for delegates then get in taxi bus, latching on to other delegates. Arrive at hotel thinking long journey was over and could finally rest weary head. But no, others had checked out only ten minutes ago – where had they gone? Next hotel – where the f**** was it, ruffled through pack, didn’t seem to have any reference to another hotel – luckily found nice taxi driver who didn’t rip me off and refused to leave me till found colleagues. Didn’t actually find them but found what thought could be next hotel. Dumped luggage with Porter, enquired at reception, no rooms booked under names of colleagues. Tried to book a room myself – no way, hotel fully booked. How could this be possible, was a huge tower block with about a hundred floors. Could they suggest other hotel close by? Impossible, sad shake of Mexican heads, all hotels in area, if not in entire city, fully booked due to conference.

Slunk across road to friendly cantina for coffee and fag. Was now well and truly alone in one of biggest and most populated cities in world, without a room, without a phone, indeed without a friend. A tear slipped from my weary eye. At that point the heavens opened and the thunder roared and lightening lit up the sky, the streets quickly awash with torrents of water. Forced to wait in cantina till storm abated somewhat, then made mad dash across street, passing taxi whizzing through puddle soaking me to bone. Had been in transit now for thirty six hours, suffering from jet lag, bag lag but luckily not fag lag, the latter being the only lag I could remedy.

Was slowly forging my way through puddles, a wet and bedraggled figure, a homeless vagabond in a foreign land, when raised dejected head, looked through streaming rats tails and there, getting out of a taxi were my lost amigos. I have never been so glad to see anyone in my life.

From then on things got better and better, but to be honest, they couldn’t really have got any worse. My room on eighteenth floor, paid for by drug company, was luxurious to say the least – marble bathroom, big white bed etc. So high up could see right out over city, and could feel building swaying, wobbly legs.

This was the most woeful of starts to what turned out to be one of the best and most rewarding trips of my life.

XV11 International AIDS Conference 2008

I am back from Mexico – exhausted but exhilarated and will update blog, very soon, jet lag permitting.
Technology let me down, preventing me from reporting back on a daily basis, as promised – as well as my mobile phone refusing to work and temperamental camera following suite by declining to open its lense.

Will toss phone and camera in river, but not lap top – though tis still playing up.

What an experience, a trip of a lifetime and so much information to relate back to you, complete with funny incidents of course so stay tuned.
hasta entonces.