Thailand National AIDS Seminar, 27-29 May 2009

Hello friends!

To continue in Javi’s footsteps, here’s an update from my summer in Bangkok, Thailand. I arrived at BKK late Friday evening and spent Saturday and Sunday exploring my neighborhood and even managed to navigate the mall to get my cell phone service set up.

Monday was my first day at the UN – I finally got to meet my preceptor, whom I’ve been corresponding with via e-mail for the past 6 months, and other friendly colleagues. I sit at a cubicle in an office with members of the UNFPA Thailand country office and the East Asia/Southeast Asia regional office. I’d say one of the most notable bits to share from here is that the food is DELICIOUS and SO inexpensive! The UN building has 2 cafeterias with international cuisine and traditional Thai dishes, and then there’s a café with sandwiches, salads, etc. I’d say I pay an average of $1-2 for my meals (good sized portions, too!)- with a drink, dessert, and after-meal coffee, I’ll probably pay max $4 in all. 🙂

Now onto the more important stuff…! Today, I was fortunate to attend the Thailand National AIDS Seminar, held at a huge convention center in Bangkok.

Photos: archway at the convention center. ‘Walking condoms’

This is the 12th annual seminar, originally started in conjunction with the US CDC, the International Epidemiological Association (IEA), and other leaders in HIV/AIDS in the Asia Pacific region, but has now grown into a large scale 3-day event, expanding beyond members of the HIV community to the general population (elementary school to college-aged students, clinicians, people living with HIV, political leaders, celebrities…. everyone, really!).

photo: Prime Minister of Thailand

The seminar is organized into plenary sessions of leaders discussing key issues in HIV (female condoms, ‘staying negative’, etc.) and a large exhibition room with over 100 booths from community based organizations and NGOs, providing blood tests, screenings, and information on counseling, medication, and prevention. Posters from recent investigations and journal publications were on display. There was also entertainment provided by local dance troupes and musicians.

The opening ceremonies featured remarks from the ministry of health, a woman living with HIV, and the prime minister of Thailand. I got a quick translation after the audience erupted in laughter when the woman living with HIV looked to the prime minister and asked “Sir, can you please be a good role model to our country and have one partner?”. Later in the opening session, the PM did respond directly to her question and said that it would be no problem to stay with only his wife.
The UNFPA had a booth next to UNAIDS, UNICEF, the World Bank, and other UN agencies. The UNFPA Youth Advisory Panel was on board to distribute information, host a quiz game with prizes, and get people to sign up for the online HIV/AIDS Solution Exchange program. There were booths sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, sex worker and MSM advocacy groups, and youth organizations. One of my favorite sites was of a traditional Thai farming basket carrying exotic fruits and… condoms! They gave them out to everyone. 🙂

Oh, another quick note… I almost forgot about my ‘encounter’ w/ swinefluness during my voyage over the pacific. It looks as though several airlines and airports have taken (in my opinion) more extreme cautions concerning H1N1. I took ANA from DC to Tokyo then Tokyo to Bangkok. All flight attendants working for ANA are required to wear facemasks at all times on board. I also noticed several passengers sporting the masks. Every passenger on the flights arriving in Japan and in Thailand is required to fill out a medical form, stating the purpose of travel, prior stays before travel to destination, and a series of yes/no questions on H1N1 symptoms. A few hours before we landed in Tokyo, an announcement was made that ‘a passenger on board has reported potential symptoms and the flight will be inspected upon arrival. Thank you for your patience with the delay…”. When our flight landed, health officials and quarantine inspectors came on board to look at the passenger ‘with symptoms’ on board, and also to test everyone who sat within 5 rows in either direction. Lucky for me, I was sitting just a few rows before the inspection zone and was able to deplane with just a 15-minute delay.

Whoops, didn’t mean to write this much! Hope everyone has had a great start to the summer!



4 Responses

  1. oyyyyy, i’m having the hardest time formatting this entry! sorry for the sloppiness! 😛

  2. Haha condoms and fruit! Great post Lesley!

  3. Looks great! That swine flu experience on the plane was something else. I’m glad you didn’t catch it!

  4. Don’t forget to get the $5 thai massages! So glad you’re having a wonderful time! Can’t wait to read more!! 😀

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