Association of Nurses in AIDS Care Conference 2019

The Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) is a nursing organization that formed in 1987 to focus on educating and supporting nurses who work in HIV care, research, prevention, and policy. ANAC is made up of more than 40 chapters from around the world and includes nurses, healthcare professionals, social workers, pharmacists, physician assistants, lawyers, doctors; and others who are committed to addressing the HIV epidemic.

Thanks to The Well Project, I had the pleasure of attending the 32nd Annual ANAC 2019 Conference which was held November 7 - 9 in Portland, Oregon at the Downtown Marriot Waterfront. I want to also thank the conference co-chairs, Carol Dawson-Rose and Christopher Fox, who worked tirelessly to create an inspiring space for all attendees. The conference objectives were to:

  1. Analyze strategies to advocate for advances in HIV/AIDS treatment, care and prevention within the current policy environment.
  2. Discuss innovative biomedical, psychosocial and behavioral research in HIV, with an emphasis on:
    • Symptom management
    • Self-management strategies
    • End-of-life and palliative care
    • Prevention and wellness
    • Technological modalities
    • Social determinants
    • Intervention strategies that impact disparities in HIV incidence and health outcomes
  3. Evaluate the global impact of nurses and other healthcare professionals in addressing HIV prevention and care, health disparities, HIV risk and social determinants of health.
  4. Demonstrate an enhanced ability to care for key populations at risk for HIV acquisition, living with or affected by HIV and related co-morbidities.
  5. Increase capacity of nurses and other healthcare professionals to identify, treat and care for individuals at risk for and/or living with viral hepatitis.

The conference included expert speakers, roundtable discussions, professional education, and research and experience driven presentations. More than 450 healthcare professionals, advocates, nurses, and leaders in the HIV community attended the conference.

I arrived on Wednesday, the day before the conference. I flew in from Florida, so two planes and ten hours later, I arrived at the conference hotel. Although I was exhausted from the trip, I took some time to explore the city and luckily one of my colleagues and friends was able to join me. We took a walk downtown to a Chinese garden. The plants and flowers were amazing and spending time there gave us an opportunity to recharge our energy and feed our spirit.


Image: Lan Su Garden, Portland, Oregon.

The conference started Thursday, November 7 with a powerful keynote speaker. Shannon Weber, Founder and Director of Please PrEPMe was a powerhouse of information and inspirational ideas. Her presentation, "Narrative Becomes Identity", focused on addressing professional and personal burnout through a combination of compassion and resilience. Shannon is a social worker, a speaker, and "will work for Love." If you ever have the opportunity to see and hear Shannon, please do not pass it up; you are in for a treat. She is an inspiration and leader who you will instantly fall in love with. Her presentation at the conference left us all in awe, she is amazing.


Shannon Weber, opening plenary

The conference included diverse topics. From implementing PrEP to providing culturally safe and gender affirming care, the poster presentations and exhibitors at the conference covered a wide range of topics. As with many conferences, the variety of workshops and activities made it difficult to decide on which ones to attend. The opportunities to hear from leaders in the field and to meet likeminded professionals who are working hard in their communities to improve health services and outcomes for people diagnosed with and at risk for HIV were endless.

Tez Anderson, Dorcas Baker, Casey Shillam and moderator Carole Treston provided another outstanding plenary session Thursday afternoon. Their presentation title "HIV and Aging and the Importance of Connection and Networks to Foster Positive Aging with HIV" was an information sessions focused on the system of care and needs of people aging with HIV. We need sustainable models of care that address the complex health and social service needs of people diagnosed with HIV. Long term HIV survivors and people aging with HIV are in need of clinical, psychosocial, financial, and logistical solutions to holistically address their biopsychosocial and spiritual needs.

Friday morning Timothy Ray Brown talked about his journey and shared his experiences before, during, and after he was cured of HIV. I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak on a number of occasions and he still brings hope into the room and advocates for a cure for all of us.

Friday afternoon, with The Well Project's support, I had the chance to educate conference attendees on how language impacts stigma and discrimination. Although, language and stigma has been talked about for decades, we must continue to advocate for people to choose their words careful. You can find more resources about language and stigma on The Well Project's website.

Other workshops and presentations at the conference focused on adolescents and HIV; PrEP; cognitive training for people living with HIV; treatment for black people dual diagnosed with HIV and HCV; trauma informed care; and the inclusion of black women in efforts to end the HIV epidemic, among other topics.

Although, I was too tired to attend (I was still on Florida time), I heard the evening Gala "Welcome to the End of the Rainbow", was a fun, exciting event, and included an abundance of lively costumes. I am sorry I missed it.

One of the highlights of the conference, on Saturday morning, included a screening of the documentary 5B and a panel discussion with Cliff Morrison, Alison Moed, Guy Vandenberg and Bill Mannion who talked about their experiences on Ward 5B in the early days of the HIV epidemic. These dedicated professionals loved and cared for people dying of AIDS-related complications, they held our hands, they relieved our symptoms, and they fought for our rights. Because of nurses and health professionals like them, today, millions of people living with HIV are alive and living productive lives. They laid the foundation of HIV nursing care. Although at times the movie is difficult to watch, it reminds us of how far we have come, and how grateful we are. Their dedication and commitment are why many of us are still here.

Each time I attend an HIV conference I am reminded of the hard work people do on a daily basis to address HIV issues and to make this world a better place. I am forever grateful to those who care enough to dedicate their lives to others.

The conference highlighted the need for interprofessional collaboration and leadership to continue to address the needs of people living with HIV and the people who care for them.

Next year's ANAC Conference will be in Tampa, Florida. I plan to attend and hopefully I can stay awake to dance at the Gala.

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