This year’s International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) will mark a historic time in the fight against HIV given that we have seen such improvements in treatment and prevention approaches nationally and globally over the past year. Also, given the location in Washington D.C., there are many opportunities to have a large U.S. presence and to have the voices of Americans living with HIV heard. I am really excited to be attending this year’s conference to learn from other countries, NGOs and consumers and to hear what is working and what the remaining challenges are.
Often when we have visitors come to Iris House from other countries, they are amazed about the service offerings at our agency and the availability of services across New York. They tell stories of the hardship they face to get people necessary medications and ensure they have a safe place to store and take the medications. We often hear how women are abused once they have disclosed and how they work to empower women to be able to negotiate or give them tools such as female condoms when they can’t.
I always think after hearing these stories that these are some of the same struggles we face in working with women just on a different scale. Our women often are unable to negotiate safer sex due to unstable housing, lack of employment and factors that lead to dependency on others that cause them to feel helpless and vulnerable. They often don’t take medications due to stigma and lack of disclosure to their family members. So I’m energized to attend AIDS 2012 to share stories with other NGOs serving women and to swap successes and ideas that we can all implement.
I am also excited about the opportunity to present on “The State of New Media and HIV” at a satellite session hosted by AIDS.gov. New media such as Facebook , Twitter, YouTube, and mobile have really expanded the reach of our work beyond our doors and our communities. These tools have allowed us to reach women and men, young and old, in a way that would never be possible given limited resources. People now interact with Iris House online who would never see our work in action. They are able to ask questions, get connected to resources and join a community that would never judge them because of their status. This session on new media will allow participants to see real examples of how they can implement the tools in an effective way to enhance their missions and expand their reach. I hope you will join us and bring your examples and enthusiasm to this session and to all of the activities surrounding AIDS 2012.