On October 6th and 7th, 2017, 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 been historically held in Winston-Salem, but the time had come for a change in scenery, so the Queen City was selected as this year’s conference location.
Day 1 of Building Power Across the Spectrum kicked off with the Trans Health Summit at Packard Place, a social entrepreneurial hub and community center located in Uptown Charlotte. The Summit was originally scheduled to take place at the Children and Family Services Center, but was relocated to Packard Place after CFSC was not willing to designate any multi-stall bathrooms in the building as gender neutral. The purpose of the Trans Health Summit was to create a transgender and gender non-conforming health-centered summit that took a deep dive into health care topics important to the transgender and gender non-conforming community that are not always openly discussed from their perspective.
Cecilia Chung, the Senior Director of Strategic Projects from the Transgender Law Center, delivered the opening keynote. Cecilia is nationally recognized as an advocate for human rights, social justice, health equity, and LGBT equality. She was the former Chair of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and is currently serving on the Health Commission. Cecilia has been working tirelessly on the local, national and international levels to improve access to treatment for transgender people and people living with HIV, and to erase stigma and discrimination through education, policy, advocacy, and visibility. She, alongside panelists Brodderick Roary, Ilya Parker and Ames Simmons, gave conference attendees an overview of the current transgender health policy landscape and offered their insights on where the community is headed in the future.
After the plenary, Summit attendees dispersed throughout the building into various workshops that covered a wide range of relevant topics. Workshops from the Trans Health Summit included: HIV, PrEP and the Trans Community, Finding Your Voice: How to Advocate for Yourself With Providers, The Latinx Trans Experience: The Impact of Culture, Migration and Immigration Policies on the Mental Health of the Latinx Trans Community (presented in Spanish with English translation), The Intersection of Psycho-Spiritual and Medical Transgender Care and Empowering Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Survivors of Trauma.
Carly Farrar, a Trans Health Summit attendee, said, “The 2017 Trans Health Summit was a much needed starting point to address discrepancies in health care. NCAAN actively made space for trans leadership and the workshops that leaders created touched on important topics that impact the trans community. These concepts bled over into the NCAAN Advocacy Conference. There is so much potential for growth and expansion, and NCAAN leaders have created a safe space for trans and gender non-conforming voices to be uplifted.”
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 the across the state. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts was in attendance and gave opening remarks during the Welcome Reception. A special highlight of the Welcome Reception was when the NC AIDS Action Network presented Dashita Croom, Roberto Olmo, and the Hon. Damon Seils of Carrboro with their annual Advocate 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. “Dashita, Roberto, and Damon have been consistent advocates for those living with HIV in our state. They have showed up to phonebank to save the Affordable Care Act, joined us for advocacy days in Raleigh and DC, and are consistent champions for our community,” says Lee Storrow, executive director of the NC AIDS Action Network.
On Day 2 of Building Power Across the Spectrum, which was took place at the Holiday Inn Express – Center City in Uptown Charlotte, conference attendees reconvened for a full day of workshops and networking. The second day of 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 the second day of Building Power Across the Spectrum included: Modernizing HIV Laws with the Sero Project, The Leadership of Women in HIV Advocacy, How Can Public Health Agencies Protect Immigrant Communities? (presented in both Spanish and English), From Those in the Know: a Policymaker Roundtable, Why Should HIV Advocates Care about Redistricting and Voter Engagement?, and Syringes and Sex Work: Modern Harm Reduction.
A standout moment from Day 2 of Building Power Across the Spectrum was the lunch plenary with keynote speaker, Douglas Brooks, the Senior Director of Public Affairs with Gilead Sciences and the former Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Douglas was the first openly gay, HIV-positive African American to lead the Office of National AIDS Policy. During his keynote, Douglas reflected on his time working in the White House and passionately spoke about the future of the HIV and AIDS movement.
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. Alicia Diggs, advocate from Greensboro and medical case manager with Positive Wellness Alliance, said “Talk about being empowered! The Building Power Across the Spectrum Conference did more than just build power for me, it also added gasoline to the fire of advocacy in me that will help in continuing our fight to remove the stigma that is associated with HIV! The connections I was able to make with other amazing leaders in our state showed me that we are strong, dedicated and unstoppable in our passions to mobilize our communities in this fight.”
Special Thanks to Our Gracious Sponsors Who Made Building Power Across the Spectrum Possible:
AIDS United, Blueprint North Carolina, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Avita Pharmacy, Cone Health Foundation, Gilead Sciences, ViiV Healthcare, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Equality North Carolina, Ballantyne Family Medicine, Janssen Therapeutics, PhRMA, UNC Center for AIDS Research, ACLU of North Carolina, Carolinas CARE Partnership, LGBT Center of Raleigh, North Carolina Community AIDS Fund, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Positive Wellness Alliance, RAIN, Sero Project, Southern AIDS Coalition, Transcend Charlotte, Treatment Action Group, UNC AIDS Training and Education Center