Although I am disheartened at the fact that I wasn't able to be present in Puerto Rico this year and surrounded by all you beautiful souls who work in the HIV/AIDS field doing advocacy or direct service work, I am extremely impressed with how the virtual USCHA 2020 conference turned out. They did an amazing job with the graphics in each room that we were able to navigate through during the virtual conference. Even though there were quite a few technical difficulties due to that fact that so many people were trying to access the virtual platform, the fact that they included the On Demand feature made it possible to go back and watch certain workshops or plenaries that were missed. Essentially there is no way to predict error caused by system overload, but adding those different features to watch the conference Live or on Demand was well thought out and the design of the conference was very innovative.
It was refreshing to see in the opening plenary that the USCHA 2020 honored and supported the All Black Lives Matter movement. I was elated to see the Beautiful Raniyah Copeland, CEO of Black AIDS Institute, lead the conversation in the opening plenary discussing various issues regarding Black Lives Matter followed by Tyree Williams of Community Education Group who represented Black Trans Lives. One of the quotes from Raniyah Copeland that I loved was when she stated, "as such if you aren't actively working to dismantle the systems, then you are contributing to the systems of white supremacy that are able to flourish with other well-meaning white people." I liked how she acknowledged and thanked those white folks who are actively doing the work to dismantle these systems. And I love how Tyree brought up the fact that the Black community rises up and comes together when we lose cis gendered black people to police brutality, but we are silent when it comes to losing members of the trans community. I am proud to blog for an organization that actively works to dismantle these systems of systematic racism.
Finally, Dr. Fauci's speech in the closing plenary was just what the doctor ordered. I feel like a lot of the things he mentioned were exactly what we needed to hear and take away with us in the midst of this crisis we are all experiencing. I love how he pretty much advised us not to listen to #45 in his response to this new, and rising COVID 19 pandemic. I was also pleased to hear our federal leaders discuss the next steps in our efforts to end the HIV epidemic.
In conclusion, my overall experience of the USCHA 2020 virtual conference was OK; I still felt inspired and called to action. However, it doesn't come close to the magic in the energy I would have felt if we were able to meet in person in Puerto Rico. Meeting virtually greatly took away from that networking aspect. I can't wait until it is safe for us to have conferences again in person.