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At AIDS conference, it takes a village

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Photo - The AIDS 2012 Global Village at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C., Wednesday, July 25, 2012
The AIDS 2012 Global Village at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C., Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Local,DC,Roxanne Turnbull

Local activists are converging with vendors from all around the globe this week in the most diverse and bustling section of the 2012 International AIDS Conference: the Global Village.

"The activists, people living with HIV and people networking from all around the world are coming through," said Maryland photographer and health care AIDS worker Cameron Wolf.

Wolf had one of the many art exhibits at the Global Village, located at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. His display of 17 photographs drew more than 2,000 viewers during the first three days of the conference. Wolf also sold seven large photographs at $700 a piece in support of SWING -- an HIV prevention and care program for male and transgender sex workers in Thailand. Each of the photos features people he met during his five years living in Thailand.

"This is a labor of my love," Wolf said.

Wolf said the Global Village is "really astounding" because admission is free and open to the public.

"I have seen people I have met from all over the world," he said. "It's been tremendous."

Local author and psychotherapist Catherine Tuerk went to the Global Village to promote her book about her experience of being a mother with a homosexual son, called "Mom Knows: Reflections on Love, Gay Pride, and Taking Action." She also enjoyed seeing the larger message of awareness -- of equality, accessibility and safety as they pertain to AIDS and HIV -- reflected by those with booths at the Village.

"I think the Global Village is more progressive than we are," she said.

Tuerk recalled a conversation she had with a man that took her aback and left her feeling as though the United States is moving in a positive direction. The man from Rwanda pulled her aside when he noticed her pin that said "PFLAG Mom."

"He said to me, 'You have to come to my country. There is no mother that would not disown her son if she found out he was gay,' " Tuerk said.

Also at the Village are global vendors visiting the United States for the first time. Caroline Tjambiru and Uapuena Hepute, from Namibia, an African country plagued by AIDS, sold their handmade jewelry and other products at a booth.

"[My work] is very important for me," Tjambiru said. "I am living by making things with my hands. I am feeding my children."

Tjambiru, a mother of eight, said she has enjoyed meeting people in D.C. and at the conference and especially liked going to see the African exhibits at the Smithsonian museums. Most of all, she said, she is glad to share her work and art.

rturnbull@washingtonexaminer.com

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