By Kimberly Canady-Griffith
The International Workshop on HIV & Women and the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2023, celebrating its 30th year) took place back-to-back in February 2023 in Seattle, Washington. This was the first in-person gathering for both conferences since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and members of The Well Project's community were on hand (in some cases virtually). Read this author's perspectives and check out all The Well Project's coverage of these fascinating research meetings.
This past February 17, I was able to take part in a guided poster tour at the 2023 International Workshop on HIV & Women held in Seattle, Washington. The workshop was a great opportunity to meet researchers, providers, and advocates showing each other updates from our countries pertaining to HIV and women. On Monday night of the conference, I was one of a selection of new researchers who took part in the guided poster tour, presenting The Well Project's poster "Let's Talk About Sex: Facilitating Engagement About Sex and Pleasure Between Providers and Women Living with HIV." (scroll down below the text for the poster image or download the PDF version) Our poster highlighted the need to acknowledge and address the lives of women living with HIV and positively position sex in non-judgmental, proactive discussions between providers and women living with HIV while also addressing pleasure.
What in the World is a Guided Poster Tour?
In a nutshell, there are posters that the committees would like to highlight that might not have made the selection to be presented in the main workshop. The guided poster tour started off with all of the researchers standing next to their poster but with a moderator walking everyone to each participant's poster to hear them talk about their research, their findings, and the importance of their work in the field. If you've ever gone to a gallery walk, it felt very much like that.
Let's Talk About Sex at Night!
The tour started at night – well, 5:45pm to 7:30pm. That's basically midnight for me. I have presented our poster a few times in different spaces and each time I had a different feeling. On that night, I was nervous, happy, excited, with a tad bit of bewilderment of how in the world did I get here (thank you, Imposter Syndrome). That all changed once I started to present and talk about the fact that most women acquire HIV through sexual transmission but sexual health, pleasure, wellbeing, and agency are heavily disconnected from HIV prevention, care, and research. With all of this being said, providers lack informed practice guidance on these topics and insufficiently address them with their clients. The rest of the researchers, the moderator, and I engaged in a conversation that went from women's bodies and our lack of autonomy, to being a parent and pregnancy, to how, no matter what stage in life we are, we really just wish we had had safe spaces to have this conversation.
Making the Uncomfortable Comfortable
This is my mantra in my life's work: Let's make the uncomfortable comfortable. Talking about sex can be that very thing: UNCOMFORTABLE! But just like participating in sexual activity, the more you engage, the more you also learn what is best for you and your partner. This applies the same when having a conversation with your provider or your patient. The more you practice and figure out what works best for all parties involved, the better the relationship can be.
Please check out the poster image below – or download the PDF version!
Read all coverage from The Well Project at the International Workshop on HIV & Women and CROI 2023!