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.
Today, the small group of HIV advocates who met 28 years ago has transformed into the country's largest annual constituent-based national HIV advocacy event, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced advocates to change everything about our work, advocacy, and lives. AIDSWatch 2020 made history with more than 2,500 advocates joining over multiple platforms for the largest AIDSWatch ever!
And, while there has been tremendous progress since that first AIDSWatch, the need for vigorous HIV advocacy has never been greater: communities impacted by HIV are struggling under the burden of syndemics and their social and economic impacts, but we are also at a critical moment with the knowledge and tools to end the HIV epidemic in America. Join us for AIDSWatch 2021 to speak truth to power virtually from all across the country to our new Administration and Congress, bringing us all closer to ending this 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.