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USCA 2015 Concludes in DC

The 2015 U.S. Conference on AIDS Exit Disclaimer (USCA) wrapped up over the weekend in Washington, DC. Among the many highlights were the following:

ONAP Director Douglas Brooks at NHAS Listening Session held at USCA 2015

ONAP Director Douglas Brooks at NHAS Listening Session held at USCA 2015

ONAP Listening Session on Updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy

The White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) hosted a listening session on Friday, September 11, to hear ideas about the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy. ONAP Director Douglas Brooks, MSW, provided a brief re-cap of his remarks from the prior day’s plenary session about the Strategy, underscoring the updated Strategy’s emphasis on following the science and focusing on the right people, places, and practices [PDF 604 KB] to bring us closer to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States. Dr. Amy Lansky of ONAP discussed the Federal Action Plan to implement the Strategy, which is currently in development. She noted that while it will include activities for each of the 37 Recommended Actions detailed in the Strategy, it will not be a comprehensive catalogue of everything that federal agencies will undertake to pursue the Strategy’s goals over the next five years.

The ONAP team then invited session participants to share ideas about specific federal actions that should be considered for the Federal Action Plan as well as ideas about what individuals can do in their own communities to take action consistent with the Strategy’s priorities. Many participants shared ideas about how to support widespread HIV testing and linkage to care, full access to PrEP services, engagement in care and adherence for people living with HIV, and universal viral suppression for people living with HIV.

AIDS Alabama’s Kathie Hiers speaks during the USCA 2015 plenary on HIV in the South

AIDS Alabama’s Kathie Hiers speaks during the USCA 2015 plenary on HIV in the South

Plenary Session Focused on HIV in the South

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020 observes that HIV does not impact all Americans equally and calls for prioritizing our response in the communities where HIV is most concentrated, including the southern U.S. states. One-third of the nation’s population lives in the southern states, but the region accounts for more than one-half of all HIV diagnoses in the country. There are also significant disparities in HIV incidence and HIV-related deaths in the southern states.  These and other challenges as well as some innovative responses were in the spotlight during a plenary session at USCA on Saturday, September 12. Among the issues discussed were race, stigma, HIV criminalization, affordable housing, low literacy, the rural character of many states, and the lack of Medicaid expansion in many southern states, and how these issues intersect and exacerbate the HIV crisis in the southern states. Several examples of state, community and individual efforts to address these challenges were presented.

PACHA Listening Session

Also at the conference, the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) hosted a listening session. Representatives of the PACHA subcommittees provided brief highlights of their recent and current work. Then, participants at the packed session had the opportunity to ask questions or share their own recommendations for PACHA’s consideration.

Positive Spin Roundtable

AIDS.gov’s Positive Spin was the topic of a roundtable discussion at USCA 2015. Two of the African American men whose stories of navigating the HIV care continuum are featured in Positive Spin—Ken and Guy—joined AIDS.gov Digital Media Strategist Michelle Samplin Salgado in a discussion of how Positive Spin was developed. They also previewed the Positive Spin facilitator’s guide that is soon to be released. Session participants joined in the conversation, sharing ideas about how they have used or might be able to use the stories in their work with colleagues, clients and others.

Once again, USCA was an outstanding forum for hearing diverse perspectives, discussing challenges, sharing new ideas and tools, and identifying new opportunities and resources for use in our work responding to HIV in the United States.