The International Workshop on HIV and Women

Submitted on Apr 19, 2024 by  KatieAdsila

I hate traveling. I just simply hate being away from home and away from my dogs. I always love and am grateful for the opportunity and experience, but I'm an introvert and "homegirl" deep down. So virtual conferences are great. I'd rather attend in person because it's a much better experience, but virtual meetings have their appeal as well.

I'm always happy to get the opportunity to attend a meeting or conference, so when I was approached with the opportunity to attend a conference virtually, I was happy to accept, especially one like the International Workshop on HIV and Women.

But as virtual platforms depend on technology there are at times glitches that can occur, and I had some technical difficulties myself. There were a few times when the audio wasn't working and I couldn't hear anything. I started the first day off a little late because I thought it started at 8, but that was eastern time and I'm in the central time zone, but I was ready early so I only ended up being about 15 minutes late.

The first day started with a session on Increasing the Burden: Impact of Global Crises on Women Living with HIV and then moved on to a debate about whether or not ART causes hypertension in women living with HIV. I found the discussion really interesting. At the beginning of the debate a poll was taken to determine everyone's stance on the issue, about half of the audience had no opinion while the other half was evenly split between the two options of agreeing or disagreeing with the question. However, by the end of the debate over half of the audience was in disagreement that the medications taken by people with HIV were causing hypertension in women.

The next session was a symposium supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Office of AIDS Research called Breaking the Barriers to the Prevention and Treatment of HIV Among Women. This was a really good session that I enjoyed, and not just because it had three doctors from my own home state of Alabama, lol. I was quite happy to see them. I'm always happy when I can find something good from my state because there's so little that I can take pride in anymore, but these ladies rocked. The first two spoke about weight bias in HIV healthcare and the third woman spoke about PrEP Equity in Black Women. All three women were from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and I thought they did a great job and represented our state well.

The next session was about HIV and Co-Infections where they talked about living with other diseases on top of HIV, like TB (tuberculosis), cervical cancer, and long COVID. Personally, I don't have any co-infections but I also live with COPD and mental health issues, but it was still a very good session and I enjoyed it. But I was getting tired, I had been up super early and had begun to doze off a little and was so upset when I woke up at the end of a session I really wanted to see. It was the last session of the day talking about people first language and why it matters. This was the main topic I wanted to see on this day; I had already determined that I was going to write about this session and I completely missed it. ☹

The following day started early after getting very little sleep. I don't know why I have such trouble sleeping when I'm attending a conference but it seems to be a theme with me, lol.

The first session of the day was about pregnancy and breastfeeding, and I'll admit I didn't feel like I could really write about the topic because, though I've been a parent, I've never been a breastfeeding mother, but I did learn something. I learned how women who live with HIV are intentionally misinformed, shamed for breastfeeding, and often live in fear simply because they breastfeed. That's unbelievable and inexcusable.

The next session was called Where Do We Stand: Women Aging With HIV. Each of these sessions have several presentations and the first presenter was so technical that I couldn't understand what she was saying (I deal with that a lot, I'm not all that smart, lol). I heard presenters talk about cognitive decline, bone loss, cardiovascular disease, and something called CD38?? I've never heard of it before, but apparently women are at greater risk than men for a lot of things.

And I don't remember how many times I heard the phrase, "for our purposes women are defined as sex at birth." I have to be honest with you, I felt triggered or something. I know no harm was meant and I can understand that transgender women are not part of the particular conversation, but this is an extremely sensitive issue for me because my state wants to define women as sex at birth too, and the unintended/intended consequences of doing this would effectively erase transgender people by all legal definitions, along with a host of other things too, so hearing the words here I have to admit upset me.

I also heard quite a bit of speakers not using people first language, which I found surprising since they just did a whole session on the subject just the day before.

The technology gremlins got mischievous again and the video stopped and it took me a little bit to figure out how to get it working again. I had to leave the session and go back to the home page and rejoin the session, but that didn't always work and I missed some major portions of some presentations that I really wanted to see. Like the last presentation of the day which was talking about transgender comorbidities, I would really have liked to write about it but I missed too much of it trying to get back into the session. It really upset me to miss it because there wasn't very much talk about the trans community otherwise.

Technical difficulties aside, I really enjoyed the conference and would love to return next year. The presentations were all really interesting and the presenters were fantastic. I would love to see more inclusion of the trans community in future presentations but I think the organizers did an amazing job.

Thank you so much to The Well Project for giving me this opportunity to attend this event and thank you to the organizers for all your work making the International Workshop on HIV and Women a reality.



Blogger, KatieAdsila, and logo for A Girl Like Me.

Submitted by KimberlyC

katie I have to agree with you with what you said. we were in the audience questioning our selves on what we heard, with you in solidarity.

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