Different discourses

When inviting a diverse group of people and professionals to collaborate, the issue of conveying trustworthiness between different discourses requires a great deal of attention. Through ACT UP we had met the editor of a news platform about HIV and AIDS (Aids Info Special), Janhuib Blans, who immediately supported our initiative and opened many doors in the months to come to the formal AIDS establishment. In a letter dated 14/03/1990 Janhuib reports about 'careful conversations' he had had with specialist doctors, who were going to attend the conference, about their possible participation in a satellite link with Paradiso. They liked it, but would not commit. If they were going to participate it must not cost them time and we would have to get broadcasters involved so the audience would be more substantial (Personal Folder Before the 1st of May, 1990).note 177

Researchers, doctors and governmental officials had been collaborating throughout the eighties to try to understand what was happening and to find ways of dealing with HIV and AIDS. They had developed their own culture and ways of talking about AIDS and dealing with it. The HIV Union and the private AIDS Fund were also part of this 'scene'. ACT UP was clearly not, and we were of course entering that scene not only with Paradiso and the University of Amsterdam but with ACT UP too. ACT UP's activist reputation in the USA was known to everybody and feared by some. Together with Janhuib Blans we managed to find key people who were willing to collaborate with us, Annette Verster (GG&GD)note 178 and Bart Eijrond (NCAB)note 179 were crucial in convincing their colleagues that the Paradiso initiative needed support. People who were used to working together and people who were not used to working together met each other in a different context. This was an unforeseen side effect that was appreciated, as some of the participants told me at the time.

Each of the partners mentioned in the April prospectus represented a network, a language and a range of activities distinct from the other, but all apparently joined in action in the fight against AIDS during the Seropositive Ball. In the first case study on the GHP, I wrote about the trustworthiness that has to be conveyed when creating an event and connections of significance. When organizing the Seropositive Ball this was an even more elaborate enterprise since we also had to deal with many formal institutions in which people have different responsibilities. The conflict between personal positions and formal responsibilities, in which the trust of institutions is delegated to certain people, was difficult for some people at the time anyway, given the boycott of the VI International Conference on AIDS in San Francisco. Had the group of organizers not been so diverse we could not have opened so many channels of communication and collaboration. Heleen Riper, when reviewing this text, specifically emphasized that this diversity was responsible for the added value that the 0+Ball provided, even though it was really difficult at times to understand each other. The political engagement and commitment that inspired the 0+Ball was different from the political engagement that had existed previously. In Heleen Riper's opinion my personal role as initiator and producer was crucial in these collaborations.note 189 As she describes it, I created a snowball effect in which every new snowflake could contribute according to its own identity and at the same time I functioned like a 'roller coaster' to make the production and collaboration work. I agree with Heleen Riper's perception that I was convinced that every participating organization had to 'feel' that its contribution was recognized, respected and appreciated, and that their participation in the 0+Ball was consistent with their work and visions of their work. Otherwise no collaboration could have flourished. Many people contributed to the 0+Ball because they wanted to be involved. Also, the possible press attention for the 0+Ball was one of the reasons that some of the more formal AIDS institutions collaborated.