Okay so obviously my title is just a joke, more so to grasp your attention, because sheesh! Science is no joke and I have truly gained a new perspective of the world we know as HIV.
When I applied to join the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), I had little faith that I would be chosen as I clearly have no scientific background or knowledge, like not even a little. To my surprise, I was given the opportunity to attend in connection to my advocacy work – but there was no amount of preparing I could do to understand the magnitude of what was about to happen.
Science has never truly been my friend and this conference had proven just that, and let's just say I am more than grateful for replays of the virtual sessions. I was ecstatic at the possible opportunity to attend this conference in Colorado before it went virtual, but quickly realized I had no business doing this live in the flesh. I found myself rewinding dozens of times, once the live presentation had completed, even googling terms just to ensure my complete understanding of what had been spoken.
Aside from gaining a greater deal of respect for our researchers and providers, I was surprised to see all that was taking place from the scientific perspective when it came to HIV. COVID-19 has been front and center for two years now so while information was new, the fact that so much had gone into COVID studies was no surprise. However I was surprised to see the overwhelming (in a good way) amount of information being presented on HIV and what had been done during the pandemic – mostly the studies taking place.
It was an honor to attend on behalf of The Well Project (TWP), but I had no idea what I would write as part of my obligations to this amazing organization. After the conference ended and some time had passed, I logged back in to take another look at all the presentations that took place and simply selected things that caught my attention. To my surprise, the presentations I chose to dedicate a bit more time to, collectively embodied the essence of TWP. (Stay tuned for my write-ups of those conference sessions!)
I am grateful to have had this experience and shared in it with some of my other sisters. Life did catch us all at different moments, and therefore unable to truly share in the essence of our sisterhood at the event – the downfall to non-in-person conferences.
I encourage those of you reading this to step outside your comfort zone – even if it means attempting something 10-plus times, the way I did with the rewind button. Beautiful things come when you not only allow yourself to be uncomfortable, but when you allow yourself into a new territory.