ADRIENNE'S HIV BLOG – Hivine's Weblog

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

Adios Amigos – Mexican Diary

Met very nice, very eccentric Mexican man called Mauricio at smoking point today and whilst enjoyed chat and fag together, Mauricio rested paper bag filled with propaganda brochures, info etc. on wet surface from yesterday’s daily thunder storm, resulting in bottom disintegrating (bag not his) and flurry of soggy papers plus vital information scattering everywhere. Because had formed lifelong bond by this time, albeit in relatively short space of time, ignoring tried and trusted rule of never trust a stranger, leant him own highly treasured red conference bag, crammed with own propaganda and lecture notes, plus (cringe cringe) personal diary. Can only hope English of new life-long amigo is not up to scratch. Kissed our fond goodbyes as new life-long amigo joined queue for cut and blow job at Hairdressers for AIDS booth, promising would bring bag straight back after having unruly jet black locks restyled. Waited rest of day for new found amigo to turn up and to admire new hairstyle, but didn’t show – have now lost all faith in Mexican human nature. Fear is case of adios amigo as well as adios highly treasured red conference bag.

Next day, walked all way to adios amigo’s stall in enormous conference centre in hope of retrieving red bag. Red bag was there but no amigo – and bag was empty. Apparently adios amigo had taken contents home to keep safe. Felt bereft and suitably traumatised – especially about not getting chance to witness adios amigo’s new hairstyle (as thinking about getting own locks restyled) – not to mention losing possibly highly incriminating diary.

On way back caught Mary Robinson’s brilliant speech for human rights. Legs were aching and feet nearly dropping off from red bag hike and trying to seek out, ‘they seek him here, they seek him there,’ long lost amigo. Didn’t think poor feet could manage positive women’s march, although feet and heart were with them in spirit. Popped by ICW booth and women’s networking zone, which has been lively venue for workshops on topics of relevance to lives of women. Great stuff going on there – visit ICW link to see photos and updates about conference.

That night, got done up (i.e. slapped on some foundation and powdered nose) to attend conference of drug company sponsors, followed by very posh dinner, where was sitting next to positive doctor man, who although older than me, did not have one single wrinkle – even when put glasses on to double check. Doc looked sympathetically at mine, which although heavily disguised by makeup were obviously still very much in evidence, because kindly doc offered me the more effective remedy next time I was down in London of a course of new fill.

Following day, as was last day on stall, had to pack up remaining unsold tee-shirts. Proud to say sold every one of HALO project tee-shirts, along with offers of ongoing support from buyers. Surprise, surprise, the illusive Mauricio had turned up before I’d got there with red bag, contents intact, so faith in human nature, Mexican or otherwise, well and truly restored.

Final day of conference. Got up at dawn’s early light to catch inspirational closing plenary with speakers Bruno Spires and Edward Cameron, Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa and author of the price winning memoir, ‘Witness to AIDS,’ who has been living with HIV since 1986. The main focus of his speech was the decriminalisation of HIV, his statement being that HIV is a virus, not a crime. He urged the audience to focus on ending the unnecessary deaths from AIDS, on ending stigma, on ending discrimination, on ending unnecessary suffering and on ending criminalization. “HIV criminalization,” he told his avid and adoring listeners of which I was one, “increases stigma. From the first diagnosis of AIDS 27 years ago, AIDS has carried a mountainous burden of stigma. This has been for an overriding reason which is that it is sexually transmitted. No other infectious disease is viewed with as much fear and repugnance as HIV is. Because of this, stigma lies at the heart of the experience of every person who lives with HIV.”

A huge round of applause – especially from me.

“Criminalization assumes the worst about people with HIV. And in doing so, it punishes their vulnerability. The human rights approach assumes the best about people with HIV and it supports empowerment. The prevention of HIV is not just a technical challenge for public health. It is a challenge to all humanity to create a world in which behaving safely is truly feasible in which it is safe for both sexual partners and which it is genuinely rewarding. When condoms are available, when women have the power to use them, when those with HIV or the risk of it can get testing and treatment, when we are not afraid of stigma and ostracism, then we are far more likely to be able to act consistently for our own safety and for that of others. The global consensus on human rights and the enabling environment captures this positive vision of HIV prevention. Let us do. Let us take away from this conference the start of a campaign against criminalization. Let one of the conference outcomes be a major international pushback against misguided criminal laws and prosecutions.”

You can find a full transcript of Edward Cameron’s inspirational speech under Mexico International AIDS conference 2008 on blogroll.

Checked out of very posh hotel and moved into scruffier more down market Mexican version for last two nights. Public computer at reception didn’t work of course, so still out of contact with nearest and dearest. Philomena, alias Pat Butcher, or my jefe the Spanish word for boss (pronounced Heffa, which boss lady doesn’t take too kindly to), and my good knackered self, set off on a determined search to find Frieda Kahlo museum, which turned out didn’t exist. On way to non existent museum, walking through cool, leafy park, came upon huge May pole, with men dressed in long white tunics wearing bright coloured headgear, spinning slowly round and round, upside down, playing flutes. Amazingly, brightly coloured headgear defied gravity by staying in place – would not like to have to do that for a living, head already spinning round and round from all information gleaned at lectures.
Far too much to take it all in.

Staggered with Heffa round museum and exhibit of works by unknown surreal artist, but was so mentally challenged by this time, thought Col Particular on plaque under each painting was name of painter, not private collection. Even asked museum guard about unknown artist – how stupid can one get? Told Heffa boss lady Pat Butcher about faux pas, with firm promise would never tell anyone else. Not sure I believe her.

Met two amazing American women on bench outside, resting weary legs, who had been presenting abstracts at conference (in this case at least didn’t make worse faux pas of thinking was art related). American women also in search of Frieda Kahlo, whose only presence could find any evidence of was on postcards and pinnies in gift shop. Teamed up together and went off in search of sustenance instead of Frieda. Frieda as in refrieda beans perhaps. Hailed taxi on street (according to tourist guide strictly not advisable) and got nice friendly taxi driver called Hector, who recommended true Mexican restaurant, not just expensive tourist rip off. After general consultation with Heffa boss lady and American abstract deliverer ladies, decided to put trust in Hector and turned out to be good decision. Was brilliant. Atmospheric, real Mariachi singers, two lots, one dressed in gleaming white tuxedos with diamante sparkles and white sombreros and other lot in brown with gold adornments. When one lot stopped, other lot immediately took over.

Young boy came round with little white bird in coloured wooden cage. Bird hopped out and pecked out piece of paper with tiny beak with fortune written in Spanish – mine said must continue to keep speaking out and fighting for the cause. Very apt.

Asked for request from white diamante covered mariachi’s – at extra cost of course, paid in hand. Did not ask in usual tourist fashion for ‘Guantalamara – kwantellamara whackheela kwantellamara,’ instead little known Mexican ranchero about crying tears of blood from my corazon (heart) which I am proud to say, could sing along to. Mariachis not impressed! Was crying of course, (although not tears of blood although eyes by this time decidedly bloodshot), as they sang to me, thinking of my mum and how much she would have loved to have been there and no doubt happy, wherever she was, that that I was there and doing what I was doing. I know she would have been proud of me. As if it was planned, at that very moment the waiter approached our table with a tiny candle and put it in front of me – that was the candle for my mum that I never had time to go to the cathedral to light.

Next day, as previously arranged, Hector dressed in his Sunday best, arrived to take us on a grand tour of the real Mexico. Went to imposing museum with hairless, toothless, black dogs, like shiny pigs, then back in taxi and on to market at Xochimilco (pronounced cock y milcho) and a trip on the flower boats – first had to buy some meat from barbeque where insistent hands thrust greasy ribcages of dubious animals over our heads, which according to Hector had to be accompanied by bag of blue tortillas which he said were the best. On this occasion Hector lied. Sailed along murky green river on brightly painted boat with long wooden table and rickety wooden chairs, chomping on blue tortillas – passing boats selling rugs, ponchos, jewellery, mariachi bands and gleaming trumpets in competition with each other. Hector had insisted on accompanying us on boat, so were forced to keep him supplied with cold beers out of fridge i.e. ice filled bucket and chat to him in Spanish. Think he likes me, although is constantly advising me to keep in better shape for my age, like him, by putting honey on wrinkles every night. Aside from wrinkle inference was just totally brilliant experience and got off boat brimming with happiness. Absolutely love Mexico- now know why they are always singing about it. The sad fact that there are no songs written about Blackburn, speaks for itself.

Faithful Hector, who I think by this time, had developed an unhealthy crush on me, came back in dead of night to drive me to airport. As he sadly kissed me goodbye and crushed me to his taxi driver’s pot belly, offered me a last reminder to put honey on my ravaged face every night and said he would come to visit me in Blackburn – managed to extract address from me by promising to send film in throwaway camera allegedly had purchased especially to take snaps of me and Boss lady on river boat. Camera was probably devoid of film – but hey!

Got home totally knackered, but all in all, trip of lifetime and know in heart and reactivated activists soul that good things will come out of it.

Normal blogging will now resume as soon as is humanly possible.

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