Durban, South Africa
18.07.2016 - 21.07.2016 65 °F
After my quick stop in London, and another 10 hour flight, I arrived back in the beautiful nation of South Africa for the AIDS 2016 conference. During my 2010 journey, I had barely made my plane to Mozambique after some on-ground and in-air delays. I thought I would be fine this time with a four hour gap (compared to two hours on the first try), but ground delays and a very long customs line led to another sprint through the Oliver Tambo Airport in Johannesburg to make my connection to Durban. Should there ever be a 5 K held in an airport, I will be able to say that I was the pioneer of said 5 K given my two successful finishes. And given the urgency, I'm sure one of them was a personal record.
I arrived in Durban and was whisked away to an apartment in Umdloti that I would call home for the next week. The two bedroom apartment was absolutely beautiful, and it was right across the street from a wonderful beach. I took a five hour nap to get over the jet lag only to wake up, and three hours later, settle in for my usual eight hour siesta.
My beachfront apartment for a whopping $60 a night
Ships making their way around the Cape of Good Hope
I decided to hail an Uber the first day, but I didn't have much luck. The first four canceled on me because of my distance from the city center, but the fifth time was the charm. I arrived, perused the exhibits, and sat through a few sessions before the big opening session in the evening. Charlize Theron, a native to South Africa, gave the opening talk and had a great speech overall. There were others, but my friend Ryan and I decided that we should probably make some headway against the persistent jet lag and head back.
Sunrise from my balcony the first day
The 2016 International AIDS Society Conference venue in Durban
Condom chic, these art pieces were reminiscent of those found at "Cabbages and Condoms" in Bangkok
South African, Charlize Theron, giving the opening talk
The opening talk from Ms. Theron (obviously not my video)
The next three days had a few interesting talks, but there was not much of a focus on LGBT health. I got to see a lot of posters that were definitely more up my alley and networked with a few researchers for possible collaborations.
I was able to catch up with a lot of colleagues that I no longer see very much including many UCLA alums like Cristina Rodriguez-Hart and Dvora Davey who have become friends over the years. I mainly tagged along with my friend and colleague, Ryan Kofron, marveling at art deco casinos (long story) and eating new and interesting things (bunny chow! kudu!). The conference was filled with speeches, grandstanding, and the requisite celebrity or two, but I won't bore you with the details.
A protest over drug prices during a session
Me and the poster from my dissertation
My friend, Ryan, with his poster
Prince Harry of England addressing the crowd. His mother, Princess Diana, was an early HIV/AIDS advocate, and he has taken up the mantle to advocate for an end to HIV.
Sir Elton and Prince Harry
Elton addressing the masses
A South African favorite, Bunny Chow
While it was a nice experience with colleagues and friends, each conference can be rather hit or miss with regards to how much you actually learn. I was able to network with new collaborators, talk with old friends, and eat some amazing food, so it was definitely a win overall. However, the sessions themselves either did not directly pertain to my field of expertise or were confirmations of dated findings. I had a good time overall, but I'm definitely happy to be coming home.