Mark your calendars for the 2017 United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) happening September 7-10 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org. This year it was difficult to figure out the right tone and tenor for the meeting. With all the changes in Washington, we decided to focus on constituents and the need for connections.
When I was a kid, my family would pack our station wagon with its faux wood panels and make the 18-hour trek from Seattle to Los Angeles for our annual family reunion. I enjoyed the long drives because I could play my eight track Barbra Streisand tape and sing “People” at the top of my lungs for the entire drive. Some of us knew very early that we are gay.
Reunions were how my family shared their stories. I learned my parents were interned during World War II at one of the reunions. After I came out, I found out that blood does not make a family. Early in the epidemic, some birth families rejected their children when they got sick. It broke my heart when I had to tell someone that their family would not see them before they died. I still am haunted by my friend Michael as he called out for his mother who never showed at the hospital.
The 2017 meeting’s theme is A USCA Family Reunion. It is a shared cultural experience for most people, and at the height of the epidemic, the family got us through the difficult times. It is very important to understand that we define family not by blood, but by choice. You may not be my family by birth, but you are absolutely my family of choice.
USCA Values Our USCA family is on a mission to end an epidemic. We are committed to building the next generation of leaders. Our family values diversity, inclusion, gender (cis & trans) and LGBT equity, and racial justice. We believe that all Americans should have health insurance, healthcare, medications and the social services that allow them to lead full active and productive lives. We want our children to be the first HIV-free generation. To live in a world where their geography, race, gender (cis & trans) or sexual orientation does not automatically create a pathway to diseases.
Our family is very diverse. NMAC wants you to share some of your family traditions that we can incorporate into this year’s meeting. Email us with your story. This year everyone will get t-shirts that say 2017 USCA Family Reunion. Please wear your t-shirt on Friday, Sep 8th to take group pictures and make memory books.
Session Programming Our reunion is committed to building the next generation of leaders. We will pass on the lessons from the elders and subject matter experts. Half of the workshops will come from a call for abstracts process, the rest will be curated from those organizations and/or families with special expertise. Hear directly from our government partners as a number of sessions will be devoted to navigating the changes in the Affordable Care Act and healthcare delivery. Please go to our www.2017usca.org to find out the latest details on how to submit an abstract and the deadlines.
The older generation is aging out of the work. We have a responsibility to make sure that the fight continues and expands to the next generation. They will shoulder the opportunity and burden of ending the epidemic. Let’s not lose the chance to pass on the values, skills, and stories that we learned during the early days.
Our movement started in the early 80s because the healthcare and social services system would not take care of our friends who were sick and dying. After being turned away far too many times, we started our own agencies so that people didn’t have to die alone. The stories of our struggles and fight to get services formed the foundation of our values as a movement. It is also why I know we will be OK. We are a movement of people who changed the world. Our DNA is the stuff of courage, legend, and bravery. It might be a little scary right now, but we’ve learned to turn our fear into strength. Come to the 2017 USCA Family Reunion. Give Gran a hug, she misses and needs you.