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Two CUPE members are in Mexico City this week for AIDS 2008. Roger Procyk, of the National Aboriginal Council, shares his experiences and impressions of the conference.

Aug 2/08 - Rough ride to Ontario from the ‘Peg and we were still bouncing around as we came in to land at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

Aug 3/08 - The ride to Mexico City left on time. I met colleague Gerry Lavallee, co-chair of CUPE’s Pink Triangle Committee, on the plane.  We doubled up when we disembarked at the Benito Juarez airport and shared a cab into the city to the Camino Real Hotel (Royal Highway Hotel).

We doubled on another cab after breakfast – which included, for me, café con leche.  They bring a cup of hot black coffee with a small pitcher of hot milk on the side.  You mix it yourself.  Muy excelente!

I then went to catch a bus to my first Mexico AIDS Conference tour. The bus took us to another part of the city to a modest building where the 2nd story program called La Red Mexicana is housed. The organization is a network of people living with HIV/AIDS whose main focus is capacity building for clients and their families and networks.  They have 4 or 5 rooms from which 12 staff and 30 volunteers run a education, counselling, STI and HIV testing service much like 9 Circles Community Health Centre in Winnipeg.  They have a medicine bank where they collect unused medications (from clients who change regimes or develop resistances, etc.) and provide these to numerous other clients who need them.  

It was officially announced at this conference opening that Mexico has “Universal Access” to HIV drugs.  While that might sound good at the press conference and strike the right political tone, it has more substance as an ideal than as a reality – otherwise this organization would not be running an HIV meds bank to serve the hundreds that it does.

According to the staff, which proudly includes PHAs, their clientele are mostly men.  They pegged the number of positive individuals in Mexico at about 162,000 out of a total population for the country of 110 million.