On June 7th, 2016, the North Carolina AIDS Action Network (“NCAAN”) held its annual HIV/AIDS Advocacy Day at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh. The convening brought together around 50 advocates from across the state to talk with legislators and policymakers about issues related to HIV/AIDS.
The morning kicked off with an orientation and training on how to conduct legislative meetings and concisely communicate information. NCAAN staff outlined key campaigns including providing ADAP insurance premium assistance and the impact of closing the Medicaid gap for people living with HIV/AIDS. Advocates were organized into five regional advocacy groups and were provided with a list of legislators to target for their morning visits.
The groups were organized to highlight the diverse and intersecting communities and constituents impacted by and working on addressing HIV/AIDS in North Carolina. For example, one group consisted of local community advocates from Alamance County, legal experts from Duke, UNC public health professionals and local and regional organizers.
Advocates met with many legislators throughout the day and shared their perspectives and information about ADAP funds being used to pay for healthcare premiums and providing compressive treatment and care for those living with HIV/AIDS. Building diverse coalitions of stakeholders allowed policymakers to hear a variety of perspectives on an issue and strengthened advocacy efforts through each individual’s expertise in specific areas.
HIV/AIDS Advocacy Day provides the unique opportunity to bring together a community of advocates who are working together to create change throughout North Carolina. One of the groups had the opportunity to meet with the Democratic Minority Leader, Representative Larry Hall of Durham, and discussed emerging HIV prevention strategies, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (“PrEP”), and the potential impact they could have for many North Carolinians. They were able to highlight a number of issues including how increasing patient access to the medication would slow the spread of HIV in North Carolina, as well as affordability and insurance coverage issues.
Speaking directly with Rep. Hall allowed advocates to provide him with relevant information and follow-up on any questions he had. Additionally, building and strengthening the relationships between our grassroots advocates, elected officials and the leadership of NCAAN allows us to continue the important work of addressing HIV/AIDS here in North Carolina.
– Ryan Drab, NCAAN intern