Once again I'm finding myself back in my closet trying to decide what to pack in my suitcase for the 2010 United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) hosted in Orlando, Florida from Sunday, September 12 to Wednesday, September 15, 2010.
This will be my fifth time attending the conference where nearly 3,000 case managers and physicians, public health workers, advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) and policymakers with gather to build national support networks, exchange the latest information and learn cutting-edge tools to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. USCA is sponsored by the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) and the nation's largest HIV/AIDS gathering.
As an activist living with AIDS, each year, the conference provides me with amazing opportunities to learn, grow and discover. The conference is far from a resort get-a-way. The days and nights are grueling, and for people like myself who daily battle fatigue, the travel and conference can be rough and costly.
That reminds me, I need to pack extra-strength Imodium!
This year I'm both excited and proud that NMAC's Executive Director Paul Kawata recognized the urgency to ensure that the community most affected is provided with resources to guarantee and support their participation in the discussions. Each year NMAC sets aside a number of scholarships for people living with HIV/AIDS to assist with conference registration, hotel stay and/or travel.
This year, NMAC set aside an additional 40 scholarships for people living with HIV/AIDS around the nation whose health and well-being depend on AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) to sustain their daily lives. This year, NMAC is encouraging the most adversely affected and vulnerable of PLWHA's an opportunity to take center stage and be part of the solution for more than 3,500 in the nation on a wait list for AIDS-medications. These scholarship recipients will be the face for all those who are suffering with anxiety wondering if they will have safe access to their life-saving medications that help them go about daily life.
For scholarship recipients, it is not going to be a free ride. They will have the opportunity to allow themselves to dive into workshops, network with peers and identify on how use the new found knowledge and connections to be leaders in their own community when they return home.
While in Orlando, I hope to have the chance and meet with some of the scholarship recipients and share their story and their hopes.
With you in the fight!