Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Report from the Field: microbicide gel is circumcision 2.0

As i make my way from the dignified merc taxii to this or the other venue in the German city of Vienna, i am reminded again why i am paid so generously: it isn't easy being the most senior HRI representative at the mother of all junkets and I barely found some time today to sit down and share my thoughts with you, between shady deals brokered behind the scenes, smiley meetings in which I deny that the those deals exist and touching moments of joy at the sight of so many old friends i haven't seen it like at least two years (remember Mexico?). 

The though that people actually attend the various sessions, posters and presentation is very amusing and in my busy schedule I do find time to stop for a sip of coffee and marvel at the earnestness of it all. Even by the generous standards of our business, if these junkets were merely meant to provide a forum for thousands of “abstracts”, they would be money unwell spent, and believe me i know money unwell spent when i see it.

Speaking about money, I did attend a “plenary” yesterday, to watch technology enthusiast and hobby philanthropist Bill “Let Me Bing That” Gates giving the world a piece of his mind and being charmingly introduced to the stage by a group of Wilhelm Tell enthusiast, seeing that we are in Germany, the home of elevated culture:

Being a technology enthusiast, Mr. Gates then proceeded to show a few movies himself, including one of a young man being circumcised in a Hermite kingdom that I just so happen to have visited recently:

Now, circumcision for hiv prevention was the big news at the mother of all junkets a few years ago (was it Toronto? Nathan wasn't around then so can't help this aging aidworker remember), very much like the microbicide is the big news this time around, but in specific HRI fashion, while everyone will pay attention to the noise around the microbicide story we'll grab a hold of the global circumcision donor "resources", with just the right mixture of “strategic partnerships”, “sole sources” and backhanders, most of them sealed and sorted in the coffee shops of Vienna, over fairly average fair (what was that cabbage thing today, for bing's sake?)

So, in the close future expect tons of cutting edge glossy HRI reports and newsletters on circumcision, as well as plenty meetings across all levels of "stakeholders", lifesaving workshops, seminars and capacity building initiatives – enough to keep us busy, along with a reasonable group of affiliates, from the public and private sectors. Also expect armies of reasonably paid experts to descend on unsuspecting small and medium-sized African countries, all in the name of HRIs vision to acquire any available funding for the sake of the people we serve.

What will happen to the microbicides? I hear you ask. Well do not worry, we have our people on the job, and experience tells us that the big microbicide money will start flowing in a year or two, just in time for us to close up our circumcision work, with a final, tasteful launch of a last report (about the failure of local partners to circumcise the people, i would risk to say) and to unleash our “experts” on the unsuspecting world of microbicides.

And with that i'm off  to my next meeting in the coffee shop. Here's to many years of groundbreaking successes and really, Bill shouldn't worry about nothing, the whole thing is as always in best hands.

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