This is the second time I've been able to attend USCHA and oddly enough, both trips followed a significant event in my life...
I often refer to USCHA as the Grammys of HIV Conferences. With 4,000 people in attendance it was like a family reunion, or even a high school reunion noting who's best dressed, most popular, rising star, etc.
This year's theme "A Love Letter to Black Women" was met with some hesitation and many thoughts on how the production of this event would come together. There was a day prior to the start of the conference specifically reserved for Black women that I continue to hear left people feeling emotional and full, recognizing not only the history of the weight carried on women's shoulders, but incorporating symbolic cultural rituals.
As the conference continued, it was apparent that the organizers, in my opinion, put much thought into the production as a whole. While some things out of their control caused questions and frustration, overall it was a great conference.
There were also many good breakout sessions that made you wish you could split yourself into two or three different places at once.
Attending conferences such as this are also always a great place to connect with community leaders, social media friends, and people who have become key parts of your tribe. My tribe showed up and showed out for me and stressed ensuring that I took whatever time I needed to rest because, as much fun as conferences can be, they are equally exhausting.
I feel compelled to note, in the words of Ci Ci Covin, "HIV changed my life. 😒 but The Well Project *chaaaanged* my life. 🥰❤️" This statement is a testament to the community and tribe that I've become connected to.
Two of the greatest lessons I leave taking from USCHA 2023 is that We Are All HIV Possible, a statement made during a plenary session; and that I will no longer let my cup run dry. I will allow it to overflow and whatever is in the saucer is what I'll give away!
If you are new to advocating, have never been to USCHA, or are interested in learning about HIV, I highly suggest considering your attendance for the coming year! There is no better place to end HIV stigma than at a place overfilled with love and joy of those working in the field and those flourishing with HIV!