On November 15-16th, 2019, the North Carolina AIDS Action Network hosted Building Power Across the Spectrum, our annual HIV and AIDS advocacy conference, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The conference has previously been held in Winston-Salem and Durham, so the time was right to head back west, so the Queen City was selected as this year’s conference location.
Friday, November 15th, Day 1 of Building Power Across the Spectrum, kicked off with the Social Determinants of Health Summit at Johnson C. Smith University, an HBCU right outside of uptown Charlotte. The Social Determinants of Health Summit was centered on engaging in conversation on a range of topics related to social determinants of health, such as food, housing, education, and access to healthcare, and its impact on people living with or vulnerable to HIV in the community. The Summit started with a lunch plenary titled, Social Determinants of Health, Go!, which set the stage for the day and provided an overview on the impact that the social determinants of health have on a person’s overall health. After the plenary, summit attendees were able to attend breakout workshop sessions such as Housing and Health: Challenges, Successes, and What the Future Holds! and Reaching Out: Transforming an HIV/AIDS Agency to Increase Outreach to Underserved Target Populations.
Following the breakout workshop sessions, Summit attendees came back together for the Poverty Impact & Contrast Experience. The Poverty Impact & Contrast Experience engaged participants in simulated experiences around the impacts of poverty. Summit attendees explored social construct, stigma, intersectionality, the social determinants of health, and social capital. Participants left being made aware of contrasts in social class, challenged in thoughts concerning the impacts of poverty, and motivated to personal action.
Later that evening, conference attendees made their way to the Building Power Across the Spectrum Welcome Reception, which was held at Carpe Diem Restaurant. The Welcome Reception is traditionally a time for conference attendees and local advocates to celebrate the start of conference while mingling and networking with fellow advocates from across the state.
A special highlight of the Welcome Reception was when the NC AIDS Action Network honored Nicole Dozier and Jeffrey Edwards- Knight with their annual Advocate of the Year Award and the Wake County Human Services with the Local Health Department of the Year Award. The Advocate of the Year award is awarded each year to individuals who have provided dedicated service to advance HIV treatment and prevention in their local community and across our state. The Local Health Department of the Year Award is awarded to local health departments who have demonstrated exemplary work and service, have enriched the lives of people living with HIV in their community, and worked to prevent new HIV transmissions.
On Saturday, November 16th, advocates made their way to Day 2 of Building Power Across the Spectrum, which took place at UNC – Charlotte Center City in uptown Charlotte. Conference attendees from all over the state convened for a full day of workshops and networking. Building Power Across the Spectrum was designed to be more broadly focused on HIV and AIDS advocacy, so the workshops touched on a wide range of topics within the field. Workshops from Building Power Across the Spectrum included: PrEP on the Front Lines: Why Every Health Department in NC Should Have a PrEP Program, A Conversation on Non-HIV Stigma, Policies and Laws Impacting the Immigrant Latinx Community: A Crash Course, Why HIV Advocates Need to Care About Abortion Rights, Trauma Informed Care – HIV & Mental Health Focus, Writing for Advocacy, Medicaid in NC, Staff Wellness as a Foundation of Trauma Informed Care, Living an Authentic Life – The Path to Fulfillment, The Intersection of HIV, Military Culture and Peer Support and A Sex Positive Lens and Mindset.
A standout moment from Building Power Across the Spectrum was the lunch plenary with keynote speaker, Rita Harcrow, the Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HOPWA). During the lunch plenary, Harcrow delivered an engaging presentation on the current landscape of addressing housing for people living with HIV and the recent changes surrounding the new HOPWA modernization formula, which will determine how HOPWA housing funds are allocated throughout the country.
As the result of attending Building Power Across the Spectrum, advocates are optimistic for the future of people living with HIV and AIDS in North Carolina and are excited for more opportunities to make progress for those within the HIV and AIDS community and for those who are outside of the community.
Special Thanks to Our Gracious Sponsors Who Made Building Power Across the Spectrum Possible:
AIDS United, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Avita Pharmacy, Equality NC, Gilead Sciences, LGBT Center of Raleigh, Merck, and PhRMA.