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Durban Diary – Day one

Wednesday, 13 July 2016 Written by // Bob Leahy - Editor Categories // International AIDS Conference , Travel, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Bob Leahy

Our editor Bob Leahy is in Durban South Africa this week, filing daily reports from the International AIDS Conference. Day One finds him departing from his rural Ontario home for a long flight half way around the globe.

Durban Diary – Day one

Wednesday July 13

I don’t particularly like flying so today (and tomorrow) is going to be a bit of a challenge. My flight leaves at 2.40 pm from Toronto, about a two hour drive from here,  to Washington DC where I transfer to another plane to take me to Johannesburg, then a third for the relatively short leg from Johannesburg to Durban. I arrive there at 8.05 pm tomorrow (Thursday). 

How do people do this? I mean no amount of in-flight movies, iPhone games or reading 1,000 pages of War and Peace can surely keep me from being bored stiff.

But I’m sure it will be worth it. This will be my third International AIDS Conference. It’s expected to attract 17,000 of us from around the world. The experience of previous years has been amazing in almost indefinable ways, but which revolve around a sense of kinship, belonging and awe at the conviction and determination to make a difference which exists in the global HIV community. Minds are changed here and so, I dare say, are lives.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Add in experiencing Africa, a continent I’ve always been fascinated with, and this trip could potentially be mind-blowing. I’m gone 12 days.

Going here is a privilege though which I don’t take lightly. I had applied for a media scholarship way back at the beginning of the year but was declined. Then I applied for an IAS Educational Fund scholarship offered to clinicians, service providers and advocates. There were 2,000 applicants and again I was declined. But then just two weeks ago, I was advised that due to a “reallocation of funds, whatever that means, my educational scholarship had been approved. With paying for my nothing fancy hotel and the conference paying for everything else, plus a lot of scrambling to put last minute arrangements in place, I’m all set.

I have a good friend who lived in Durban prior to coming to Canada who has said nice things about the city, its beautiful climate, great beaches and good restaurants – with a warning to be careful and not to walk anywhere except in the downtown/beach area. We shall see.  

So I leave for the airport shortly. Tomorrow is a traveling day, Friday is a day spent recovering. The weekend gets underway with a two-day Positive Living summit. The conference proper begins Monday and runs until Friday. Logistics and wifi permitting, I will be filing daily reports. Wish me luck – and watch this space.