World AIDS Day Parade

While some (cough cough Blake) would argue that “there’s nothing to do in Mae Sot,” I tend to disagree.  There’s a facebook group that is constantly updated with regularly organized events, from art shows to movie nights and concerts.  And, of course, there’s an occasional parade.
The original posting said that the “Rainbow Sky Ass[ociation] of Thailand” would be meeting in front of the police station at 8 am on Dec. 1st, and marching to the Mae Tao Clinic, where various NGOs would serve breakfast.
Only two of these things turned out to be true.  It was December 1st and we did march in a parade to the Mae Tao Clinic, but there was no Rainbow Sky, no breakfast, and it wasn’t at 8 am.

We met our coworker in the parking lot after she phoned to say that she didn’t see anyone she knew.  We arrived within a minute and didn’t recognize anyone either, but I decided to use the most common trick in my book and walk up to the only group of white people there was.

They were all wearing matching Mae Tao Clinic shirts and visors, but they weren’t who we thought they were.  Nevertheless, this group of Australian volunteers (mostly nurses and medical students/professionals) invited us to join them, handed us matching hats, and we wrote slogans of support on pieces of paper.

We got started around 8:30 and walked for 2-3 km to the Mae Tao Clinic, a community hospital for Burmese refugees that’s almost as old as I am! It was founded in the late ’80s by Dr. Cynthia Muang, who has worked tirelessly since then to bring health care to migrants who aren’t officially recognized by the Thai government (the wikpedia article also notes that Dr. Cynthia isn’t officially ‘welcomed’ in Thailand either, despite all of the work she has done and the awards she and the clinic have won).

We didn’t stay too long (too hungry without any free breakfast, wah) but it was really great to see so many groups, especially youth, involved with celebrating World AIDS Day.  The motto of this year, from the World Health Organization, is “Getting to Zero” – zero new infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS-related deaths.  This is their goal to reach by 2015.  Maybe it’s a stretch, but maybe the case of the Berlin patient and other breakthroughs will make it a reality within my lifetime.

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