Education in Action at the NC HIV/AIDS Advocacy Conference

advocacy conference

NCAAN Community Organizer Quinton Harper speaks to a full house about the state of HIV in North Carolina at the Advocacy Conference

The 2014 North Carolina HIV/AIDS Advocacy Conference drew over 150 people to Winston-Salem State University on September 6th to learn how to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and affected communities in our state.

Dr. Jacquelyn Clymore, North Carolina State HIV/STD Director in the Communicable Disease Branch of the NC Division of Public Health, offered insights on the latest epidemiological data in the plenary session, including a dramatic increase in new HIV cases among young African-American men. She also reflected on the huge changes that she has seen in decades of work in HIV and health: medical advances that would have seemed miraculous in the early days of HIV and AIDS, and new challenges that still cost the health and lives of too many people in our state.

Breakout sessions explored an array of issues that intersect with HIV and advocacy. At the “HIV and Incarceration” session, experts from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, UNC, and the justice system discussed the parallel epidemics of HIV and mass incarceration and their effect on health inequalities. In the “Our Whole Selves: HIV, Faith, and Black MSMs” session, faith leaders and advocates from Triangle Empowerment Center and NCAAN Speaking Positively discussed the role of faith communities in AIDS advocacy, particularly in empowering Black MSMs. The Duke AIDS Legal Project and the Southern AIDS Strategy Initiative offered a session to provide updates on federal and state HIV policy and opportunities to take action. The Women’s empowerment panel convened female activists, leaders in syringe access and overdose prevention work, and voting rights advocates. The day also included time for attendees to connect with each other and share a meal.

The event was hosted by NC AIDS Action Network, NC Harm Reduction Coalition, and the Winston-Salem State University School of Health Sciences. It was sponsored by The Adam Foundation and the UNC-CFAR CODE Office, with major support from AIDS United and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.