As a steady drum beat booms within the Global Village at the International AIDS Conference, and a native welcome songs fills the air within a section of the Washington Convention Center, participants who didn't have a chance to register for the conference can follow these melodious sounds to the indigenous circle, which represents native people from around the world.
Besides hearing the distinct chants from the circle, participants will be able to tell they've arrived once they see a large teepee.
"Teepee represents family, warmth, home ... bringing people together in the spirit of unity and corporation in the fight against HIV and AIDS," said Ken Clement, host of the indigenous circle.
The village is a gathering place where visitors can meet thousands of scientists and activists representing North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. It is also an interactive space with an art gallery, workshops, video lounge, youth pavilion, meditation room and multiple networking areas.
Locals are also taking part in this village. Paper dolls are being used as message boards for visitors to write their thoughts on female condoms, which is sponsored by a D.C. group called Female Condoms for All.
"What we're going to do is build this long chain of paper dolls, and each chain represents the amount of people [and] how they feel and how important female condoms are," said Courtney McCrimon, a 16-year-old Banneker High School student, who works for the organization. "This is all over the world. People in Africa have written messages, people from Asia, Australia, everywhere."
The Women's Collective Unit, which began in the kitchen of its founder has serviced more than 1,000 women and their families in D.C. for 20 years, is another group from D.C. that focuses on raising the awareness of female condoms, but in a unique way.
"We didn't want to waste the inner ring of the female condoms, said June Pollydore of the collective. "So we decided to make earrings out of the inner rings." The collective also makes dresses out of female condoms.
This community-building is all part of the larger 19th annual International AIDS Conference. More than 20,000 scientists, people living with HIV, policymakers and activists are meeting this week at the conference, which is being held in the U.S. for the first time in decades. Activists are urging the world's governments not to cut back in the fight against the epidemic, which they say is at a turning point, according to the Associated Press.
The conference runs through July 27.