Members of the U.S. Congress are about to hear firsthand how HIV affects their constituents. That’s because HIV-positive people and their allies are heading to Washington, DC, for AIDSWatch, an annual national HIV/AIDS advocacy event taking place Monday, March 27, and Tuesday, March 28 (with early registration and an opening reception Sunday evening, March 26).
The purpose of the gathering is for hundreds of HIV-positive people and their supporters to meet with members of Congress to discuss solutions for treating HIV and preventing new infections and to garner political support for and raise awareness about the issues people living with HIV/AIDS face in the United States. AIDSWatch is also a time to honor activists and lawmakers fighting the epidemic.
AIDSWatch is presented by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in partnership with AIDS United, the Treatment Access Expansion Project and US People Living with HIV Caucus.
Five HIV advocates will be honored at the AIDSWatch leadership awards. According to AIDSWatch, the three activists receiving a Positive Leadership Award are:
Bré Anne Campbell, executive director and cofounder of the Trans Sistas of Color Project, which aims to uplift trans women in the metro Detroit area. She is working on a documentary about this community, and she was featured in the Greater Than AIDS Empowered: Trans Women & HIV campaign (read more about that here.)
Daniel Driffin, cofounder of THRIVE SS, a nonprofit that offers assistance and support to more than 550 gay and bisexual men of color in Atlanta. He made headlines last year by being the first openly HIV-positive speaker at the Democratic National Convention (watch his speech here and read more about his advocacy with Black gay men in our feature “Southern Exposure”).
Carrie Foote, PhD, founder of HIV Modernization Movement-Indiana (HMM). Once a homeless injection drug user, Foote is now a professor and activist committed to fighting HIV criminalization. (Read our article about Foote and HMM here).
In addition to honoring advocates, the awards ceremony also highlights three members of Congress, who will receive an Elizabeth Taylor Legislative Leadership Award. They are:
Delaware Senator Christopher Coons, a Democrat who introduced the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act.
Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican who is a cochair of the Congressional HIV Caucus and a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus.
New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democrat who leads the annual federal appropriations request in the House. He has supported the Ryan White Program, HIV research, affordable health care, syringe exchange programs and the prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
When not meeting with lawmakers and honoring HIV leaders, AIDSWatch participants can attend a number of events on the two-day agenda, including meetings about HIV criminalization and women’s health and a panel discussion following the screening of MTV Shuga: Down South, a television series about HIV in South Africa. In addition, several AIDS-related organizations—including the National Latino AIDS Action Network, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Black Justice Coalition—will host networking and advocacy sessions.
The final day will conclude with a rally and scheduled visits to Capitol Hill.
For more information about AIDSWatch 2017, visit this AIDS United page, which includes the full agenda, policy updates, the policy action center, orientation webinars and much more.
To read additional POZ coverage about this national event, click #AIDSWatch.