The Black AIDS Institute is a local community partner for AIDS 2012. AIDS.gov asked the Institute to share its perspective on the conference.
Every two years, the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) serves as the most important HIV-related scientific meeting in the world. This year’s conference—the first in the U.S. in more than two decades—is sure to highlight cutting-edge research findings and unparalleled opportunities for diverse stakeholders to network with each other. Program tracks will focus on leadership and affected communities, and a special series will provide skills-building sessions for those engaged in HIV-related work. For these reasons and more, AIDS 2012 offers a unique chance to shine a global and national spotlight on the fight against AIDS in Black America.
Not only will the conference occur in the city where the most important HIV-related political decisions are made, but the host city also vividly illustrates both the challenges posed by AIDS in Black America as well as ways that Black communities are responding to these challenges.
Three percent of all Washingtonians are living with a diagnosed HIV infection, with substantially higher rates among Black people than other racial or ethnic groups. The epidemic among Black people in Washington reflects the diversity of AIDS in Black America, involving men and women, young and old, and key populations, such as drug users, gay and bisexual men, and the currently or formerly incarcerated.
Washington also reflects what communities can accomplish with sufficient commitment, creativity, and steadfastness. Washington is the first city in the U.S. to deliver HIV testing services at a motor vehicle department office. The city has embarked on a major new initiative to expand free HIV treatment, and a high-level mayoral commission is helping increase the visibility of the city’s fight against AIDS.
With such a unique opportunity to highlight the AIDS fight in Black America, robust participation by Black communities at this year’s meeting is essential. The Black AIDS Institute is contributing to this effort by sponsoring a delegation of Black journalists, working with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and others to provide AIDS training to attending journalists, sponsoring Black treatment advocates to attend the conference, and reporting each day to the grassroots on major happenings at the meeting.
Engagement in the International AIDS Conference is important to the goal of ending AIDS in Black America. As biomedical tools will be essential to efforts to reduce the spread of HIV and lower the incidence of HIV-related illness and death, Black communities need to build strong and durable science and treatment literacy to enable community members to understand and use AIDS-fighting tools. The conference also offers a unique opportunity for Black Americans involved in the HIV response to network with, and learn from, counterparts from other parts of the world, especially those working to fight AIDS in the worldwide Black diaspora.