September 27-28 will mark the second-ever Fall AIDSWatch event!
TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS AGO, a small group of advocates envisioned an event that would shine a light on the unique priorities and needs of people living with HIV. This event, which would come to be known as AIDSWatch, would serve as a vehicle by which people living with and affected by HIV could speak their truth in the halls of power in Washington, D.C., and demand that Congress protect their rights and honor their struggle. AIDSWatch would be the bridge between the grassroots of HIV advocacy and the grasstops of Congressional action. It would be the space where our voices and stories shaped the policies of our Senators and Representatives.
Over the past two years, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced advocates to change everything about our work, advocacy, and lives, AIDSWatch has adapted and HIV advocates have continued to share their stories: AIDSWatch 2020 was the first ever virtual AIDSWatch event and the largest, drawing nearly 2,500 advocates over multiple online platforms. During AIDSWatch 2020, a commitment was made to participants to continue the momentum on federal grassroots HIV advocacy as we all responded to COVID-19. Thus, also for the first time in 2020, the planning partners convened a mid-year, Fall AIDSWatch event to gather our community.
This year, as we find ourselves in a critical season of midterm elections preparation, reconciliation opportunities, and desperately needed health care reform proposals – and as we continue to live, work, and engage civically amidst the COVID-19 pandemic still – the AIDSWatch planning partners knew another mid-year event to bring the community together would be important in ensuring federal policymakers hear our communities’ health care concerns.
To be held September 27-28, this convening will be a special edition of our annual Spring AIDSWatch advocacy event, bringing together the people living with and impacted by HIV to learn about and strategize on key health care policy issues of our times, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and with a focus on racial justice.
With AIDSWatch’s growth, HIV advocates will be able to engage more advocates from a wider range of communities affected by the epidemic, and raise the profile of HIV advocacy nationally – all of which help us hold any Congress and the Administration to their commitment to end the domestic HIV epidemic.
We now find ourselves at a crossroads. We can either let ourselves be pushed back by institutional inequalities that cause and exacerbate disparities among people living with and vulnerable to HIV or we can push forward, confident in the belief that we have if we can provide the will.