The USCA was recently held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and I must say, it was a beautiful location! About 4,000 people gathered in Florida. It's a good mixture of people working within the HIV field and advocates, alike! I attend many conferences, but the USCA is one of my favorites! The atmosphere is so welcoming to advocates, yet incorporates a professional component, as well.
I was fortunate to speak on a round table at the conference with a few of the A Girl Like Me bloggers, called "A Girl Like Me: Crossing Borders, Tackling Stigma through Technology." I was nervous, of course. But honestly, it went great! Each of us discussed our roles, our journeys to becoming advocates and how A Girl Like Me has impacted our lives. Being among these amazing, strong and courageous women was inspiring!
One of my favorite sessions at the USCA was a lunch plenary with Paul Kawata, the Executive Director of NMAC (the organization which organizes the USCA). Paul welcomed the advocates and our efforts, stating "If the USCA is anything, it's a place to be yourself." During the lunch plenary, I also heard Ken Williams (known as 'kenlikebarbie') speak. He spoke on stigma and stated "Stigma is oppressive to the point that it kills."While we've come far in our fight against HIV, we still have a lot of work ahead to reduce stigma.
The USCA was an amazing conference. It rejuvenated my advocacy efforts and re-energized me! I'm so very blessed to have the opportunity to be among the people in attendance. They are truly inspiring and I'm grateful for their friendships!