A few words from Adrian, volunteer from Australia
My first experience as an IAS Conference volunteer was in my home country, Australia, at AIDS 2014 in Melbourne. It was an overwhelming experience that I will never forget. It felt as if the “United Nations” of the HIV/AIDS global community were all in one place. It inspired me to apply again: I have volunteered in Vancouver and Paris for the IAS Conference on HIV Science, and I am already planning my trip to Amsterdam for this year’s AIDS 2018!
Volunteering for these conferences offers the unique chance of seeing behind the scenes of a major global conference and of seeing cutting-edge HIV scientists, researchers and clinicians in action. Then there are the truly amazing activists, community workers and local volunteers who provide essential support to people living with HIV/AIDS – sometimes in the most challenging of circumstances and with access to few resources. It is a real education and a reminder of the many social justice issues we have yet to solve. The Global Village will astound and move you – take a look if you are not fortunate enough to be working there.
I should also say that as a person who has been living with HIV/AIDS since 1995, it is very humbling to see so many younger people from around the world come together to give their time, energy and compassion to the HIV-positive community. I can’t thank you enough.
To be an IAS volunteer is a wonderful chance to meet new friends, network international contacts for your academic studies and – very importantly – have some FUN! I can strongly recommend the experience to you. So get on board – apply to the AIDS 2018 Volunteer Programme – and look out for me: just come up and say “G’day”!
A few words from Ellen, volunteer from South Africa
I first volunteered at IAS 2009 in Cape Town when I was a VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) volunteer in Johannesburg. I worked in a community centre providing psychosocial support to people living with HIV in a deprived inner city community, and I was new to HIV. When not on volunteer duty, I attended sessions, which enabled me to really get a grip on the issues and developments in HIV science. I was so captivated by what I learned that I went on to do a Master’s in health sociology. Since then, I have volunteered in Rome (2011), Washington (2012), Durban (2016) and Paris (2017), and I will definitely be back for Amsterdam in 2018!
In my work today, I assist NGOs, providing HIV services with grant writing and other communications, and it is important to keep my knowledge and understanding current. I could do that in other ways, and I do, but volunteering at IAS and AIDS conferences feels like it makes a small contribution to the work being done so tirelessly by researchers, activists and PLHIV around the world in the ultimate quest to end AIDS.
The best bit about volunteering, however, is the people. I have made genuine lifelong friendships among fellow volunteers at IAS and AIDS conferences. You will meet people of all ages, from all walks of life, all with a shared interest, to do something meaningful to end AIDS. The work is not easy – you may be on your feet for long stretches and you may have to start early in the morning. But you will love every minute. Use the time. Talk to delegates. Attend sessions. Get to know your fellow volunteers. And have a blast at the volunteer party at the end!
Hope to see you all in Amsterdam!
A few words from Philippe, volunteer from France
My name is Philippe and I participated in IAS 2017 in Paris, France. As a PhD student, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to attend talks on fundamental and clinical research. But I also wanted to participate actively in this event. Therefore, I applied to the IAS as a volunteer. The experience was really enriching. I met people from all around the world, who were involved in very different aspects of the HIV epidemic.
All the volunteer supervisors were really nice and helpful. If you were assigned to a mission that you didn’t really understand, or did not know how to proceed, you could always ask and would never be lost. Moreover, if you were interested in attending specific talks during the conference, the planning was flexible enough for you to go to these talks.
A few words from Samuel, volunteer from Canada
As an activist, I am proud to say that I am one of the founding members of Latinos Positivos in Toronto. I was inspired and motivated to volunteer after I participated in AIDS 2016 in Durban, South Africa, and a volunteer went the extra mile to help me buy a cake for Nelson Mandela's birthday.
IAS 2017 was the first time I attended an IAS conference as a volunteer only, and that was the most rewarding experience I had while in Paris. It was an honour to volunteer at IAS 2017.
During IAS 2017, I was working as a volunteer supervisor. At first, I was afraid to be in charge of a group of volunteers for the size of the conference in Paris, but then I didn't want to go home after my shift. I didn’t know anyone in Paris before IAS 2017. Now I am friends with many people I met as a volunteer.
I enjoyed working with the volunteers I met in IAS 2017 so much. And I was so proud to be part of the organization. I was amazed how much I learned about HIV in Paris just by being a volunteer. Because I am a polyglot, I felt committed to participate as a volunteer in Paris, where I could help delegates in different languages.
I have been part of the HIV movement for many years, and IAS 2017 in Paris kept me happy, busy and moving up and down all the time to make it easier for delegates.
A few words from Konstantin, volunteer from France
As a person who is touched by the AIDS topic and willing to engage in something meaningful and important, I decided to volunteer at IAS 2017 in my hometown, Paris. This was the first time I participated in an IAS or AIDS conference, but definitely not my last!
It was a great interpersonal experience since I got to meet extraordinary people from all over the world. I learned a lot about HIV/AIDS when I was off duty, but also during my shifts while interacting with so many knowledgeable people.
In addition, as I have experience of people management in my professional life, I got the opportunity to supervise a team of young, international volunteers.
At first, I was very surprised that so many volunteers came from oversees, but now I get it; I also want to travel the world and keep volunteering for the IAS!
Moreover, after IAS 2017, I became an activist for the French association, AIDES. For this, I am grateful to the IAS and my beloved colleagues and volunteer staff members. Compliments to all of you for what you are doing to fight AIDS!
A few words from Dominique, volunteer from Germany
I started volunteering in 2010 at the conference in Vienna and I have attended every IAS and AIDS conference ever since.
Why? Well, after helping my best friend, who got infected in the ‘90s, get through some tough years without much hope of surviving, I wanted to be part of the “bigger picture”. Being a volunteer at an International AIDS Conference seemed to be the next logical step.
As a volunteer, I worked in the Positive Lounge, which felt like a great place to be, helping those who are suffering the most, even though I had to clean and refill coffee machines. What an amazing contribution to the fight against HIV. It was kind of boring. But during the conference, everything changed. I got familiar with the positive delegates coming in during a day full of exhausting sessions in need of a place to relax, feel secure and be respected (still not evident these days).
And I started to listen ... I listened to their stories, their past, their future, their expectations and their fears. In the end, I learned a lot about life, about the “bigger picture” apart from stem cells and T-cells, chemical compounds and statistics.
During the years, I found new friends among the delegates and the volunteers, which is worth a lot! And that’s my reason for being a volunteer again and again, no matter if I have to clean coffee machines, if I have to stand at the entrance control or if delegates ask the same questions over and over again.
The people who come together at these conferences are amazing. Volunteers AND delegates. And it’s great to be a part of it!