Up Close and Personal at USCA: A Day of Action

New York represents! From left to right: Serge Jean, Matthew Fuentes (from Senator Schumer's office), Charles Sanchez, Lillibeth Gonzalez, Damon L. Jacobs, Carlos Maldonado and Adeola Adesina (from Senator Schumer's office)
Lillibeth Gonzalez

The 21st United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) is taking place in Washington, D.C., from Sept. 7 through Sept. 10. The conference, sponsored by the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), brings together community leaders and HIV advocates to learn the latest information and to build skills for providing effective HIV prevention and treatment services. I'm part of a team of amazing writers and creators who are here covering USCA for TheBodyPRO.com and will bring you highlights of the important events, people and knowledge shared at the conference.

As a pre-cursor to USCA, NMAC also put together an Action Day on Wednesday, Sept. 6, giving HIV advocates and community stakeholders the opportunity to meet with representatives on Capitol Hill. The event was sort of a mini-AIDSWatch, and people from all over the country were engaged. Meetings took place throughout the day. Members of the Senate and Congress were asked to restore funding for the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, to lift budget caps, to maintain funding of the portfolios for domestic HIV (i.e., the Ryan White Program) and the prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and to increase funding for housing (i.e., the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS Program, or HOPWA).

I was fortunate to participate in a few meetings with the New York contingent. We met with Matthew Fuentes and Adeola Adesina, two staffers from Senator Chuck Schumer's office. Later, I met alone with Kripa L. Sreepada from Congressman Joseph Crowley's office. Both were great meetings with leaders who have a history of supporting HIV issues.

I also had a live conversation with members of the New York (Lillibeth Gonzalez, Serge Jean, Carlos Maldonado and Damon L. Jacobs) and New Jersey (Ed Barron and Derrick Wallace) groups, talking about their views on HIV and what's needed in each of their states considering the current political climate.

Wanting to get perspective from a state with more political challenges than New York and New Jersey, I asked some real nice folks from North Carolina (Tamiko Sulton, Lee Storrow, Grace McCall and Esther Ross) for their views on needs in the Southern state.

And while he was handy, I grabbed TheBody.com's own Q&A expert, Damon L. Jacobs, L.M.F.T., to talk a little about cigarettes, smoking, vaping and harm reduction, as well as the need to include these issues in conversations regarding HIV.

All that, and the official conference hasn't even started! More to come.