The conference doesn’t officially start until tomorrow so we’ve been using the past two days to recover from jet lag and get our bearings in the city. Yesterday, we walked around a bit and happened upon the famous Condomerie, the world’s first condom specialty shop. They don’t allow pictures inside so you’ll have to take my word for it that they had every type of condom and condom related product, including figurines made out of condoms, imaginable. They also had lots of information about how to use condoms effectively and practice safe sex, both integral to preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
We also took a walk through the Red Light District. Sex work is legal in the Netherlands and plays a major role in how the country addresses HIV. This is actually one of the reasons that the International AIDS Conference was held in Amsterdam this year. As the call for sex workers rights becomes louder, the Netherlands could serve as an example for the rest of the world in how countries address the legalization of sex work.
Today, we visited the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum, two (non-HIV-related) experiences unique to Amsterdam. Although the museums themselves didn’t focus on HIV, we have been seeing HIV posters and art exhibits all over the city. It’s clear that this issue is very important to the people of Amsterdam. We also checked in to the conference and took the obligatory Amsterdam photo…
Our last stop of the day was The Sex Workers’ Opera, a musical written and performed by sex workers. The show consisted of various stories submitted by sex workers from 18 different countries across 6 continents. It was both hilarious, spoofing common stereotypes about sex workers, and emotional, telling stories of police brutality and abuse. It was a powerful show and a night none of us will forget.
We are all so excited to head to the first sessions at the conference tomorrow and can’t wait to share our experiences!
Written on 7/22/2018