Achieving Together Partners and University of Texas at Austin Health Innovation and Evaluation Team members had the opportunity to learn and share at the 2019 United States Conference on AIDS. On Saturday, September 7, we presented the Achieving Together plan to over 40 USCA conference attendees through an interactive workshop session. Watch this video of us in action.
Achieving Together Partners were actively involved in the entire conference. Here are some of their highlights.
This year’s USCA focused on efforts to finally End the HIV Epidemic. It made very clear that to finally end the epidemic levels of HIV, we will need more than the biomedical advances to do so. We must address racism and sexism and their attendant atrocities (homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, poverty, etc.) and the havoc they bring (unemployment, hunger, homelessness, trauma, etc.). If fighting against HIV has taught us anything, it is that no matter what pills are in the pipeline, if we do not address these challenges in an equitable manner, they will continue to persist. HIV will continue to persist. If we are serious about finally ending the damage HIV can cause, then we must do more than address the medical side of HIV, and focus on the social side.
- The opening plenary session was most illuminating. Dr. Redfield stressed the importance of incorporating alternative, disruptively innovative non-clinical approaches for linking and retaining people to comprehensive prevention and treatment services. Fifty percent of the HIV epidemic is found in a handful of jurisdictions, however, the complexity of HIV is heightened in rural populations. Housing is a “medical” issue and along with addiction and substance misuse, achieving viral suppression is problematic. The comorbidities associated with HIV must be addressed if we are to end the HIV epidemic. U=U; if everyone did this, the epidemic could end.
- The panels with various populations provided their perceptions on the challenges of ending the HIV epidemic. Representatives from several demographics (Native American, Trans-identified, Latinx, African Americans) provided their insights on what needs to happen in their communities. Fear is a mounting concern for those outside of care and creating a safe place with a competent, culturally sensitive workforce with whom clients can relate is important. Mental and psychological barriers impact health care access. People need to be engaged in saving themselves and should engage each other in seeking care.
- The plenary session hosted by Gilead Sciences was enlightening because it gave perspective on the progress that has been made since the epidemic began as well as the legislation, organizations, and systems of care that evolved out of necessity. The shift from the primary focus of caring for people living with HIV who were on their deathbeds to not just caring for people, but preventing people from acquiring HIV, was presented brilliantly.
- There are plenty of homegrown interventions and marketing tools created by and for the people we serve. Sometimes I think we overlook the abundance of resources that are made available to us at these conferences. The developers of these programs/tools are giving it away for us to use at no charge. We spend so much time and energy recreating something that is already out there for us to utilize. I observed this in many of the sessions at USCA.
- A session that really stuck with me was on white supremacy culture in the workplace. It transcended beyond white privilege. I realized that sometimes we are picked because of our last name or the color of our skin, but that does not always translate to us having a connection to all the people that we are supposed to represent. I was also very surprised to hear that many attendees of that session are the only person of color in their organization or in leadership positions.