I am home from the United States Conference on AIDS, and I’m reflecting over how not only was it my first USCA, but it provided me innumerable and invaluable opportunities to expound upon my advocacy. I arrived earlier in the week so that I could attend a very important meeting regarding trans* people living with HIV on a federal level, and once the conference started, I stepped into my role as a trans health advocate and community mobilizer. Although I was asked to do more than I had anticipated, I found that as I did so, I was increasing my network of supporters. I think, for me, the point of attending the conference was to network with others who work in the same field and gain insight to all who are affected by or living with HIV.
There were so many great sessions that I wanted to sit in on, yet my sessions always coincided with other presenters. I didn’t get to witness the brilliance of so many of my colleagues, yet through social media, I can definitely recapture what I missed. The conference was held in Hollywood, Florida and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. I can honestly say I had several moments when I felt completely relaxed, in spite of the hectic scheduling of the conference sessions.The waves crashing upon the shore cleared my mind of all stress. I laid on the beach at night and listened to the waves while I stared up toward heaven gazing at the stars and thought of my mom and how she would celebrate with me all of my successes. It was at that moment that an overwhelming assurance came upon me that all would be well. I would walk away to a secluded part of the beach and just sit in the sand listening for the heartbeat of the ocean and found myself completely rapt in tranquility. Being on the beach and having that alone time to commune with the elements gave me the energy to continue each day afresh and ready to seize my opportunities for growth.
It was so amazing to be with my fellow CAB members of The Well Project. I had some quality time with each of them who attended USCA. We had a booth in the Exhibit Hall and I interacted with so many people who were interested in an organization that focused on the health and wellness of women either living with or affected by HIV. A common theme when anyone visited the table was that they did not know of any resources that are dedicated to women within their counties. They were directed to our website and some women had been trying to find a platform to share their experiences, and I shared with them the option of writing for A Girl Like Me/Una Chica Como Yo. Still, there was so much more work to do.
I also teamed up with members of Positively Trans national advisory board and presented, alongside my fellow NAB members, on the data from our 2015 Transgender and Gender Nonconforming survey. The session was open to the public and I even had the opportunity to educate my service provider from Detroit who was also in attendance.I hadn’t even considered that I may run into him and nearly didn’t know who he was. Still, he got to see firsthand what I had been talking to him about during our sessions. I’m so grateful for having been afforded the opportunity to attend USCA because it provided some needed healing for me. I still shed tears because I have felt great loss recently. I honestly don’t know if the pain will ever subside. I can say that I have more good days than sad ones.