It’s the 20th Anniversary of the United States Conference on AIDS. This meeting would not happen without the dedicated work of NMAC staff, voluteer host committees, national partners, federal agencies, community-based organizations, donors, actvists and people living with HIV. I particularly want to thank Vince Rodriquez, Terrence Calhoun, and Tara Barnes-Darby for many years of stewardship of the meeting.
As you get ready to join us this year, NMAC thought you might be interested a little in our meeting’s history. There is no way to capture this experience in a few words.
September 21, 2010: What Have you Done Today? Opening Plenary (click below to view)
Over 60,000 people have attended the USCA. 65% of them are people of color, 55% are women, and 25% are people living with HIV. USCA is the largest and longest community-based meeting dedicated to the people working on the frontlines of the epidemic in America.
The meeting has always been organized by people of color and the majority of attendees have always been people of color. In a world that all too often devalues people who are different, it’s important to honor this reality. It is easy to dismiss a meeting as non-essential, yet for our communities, this conference is more than a meeting, it’s a family reunion. I think that is why we were able to survive and thrive. People come to USCA for training, but they stay for the colleagues who become family.
While it’s important to remember our past, USCA is committed to looking to the future. This year’s closing plenary will focus on biomedical HIV prevention and NMAC’s upcoming National HIV PrEP Summit. NMAC believes that our future depends on biomedical prevention and a long-term commitment to retain people living with HIV and people at risk for HIV into care and on medication. This is the lynchpin that we hope will build a roadmap to end the epidemic.
Over the last 20 years there were so many memorable speakers: Mrs. Coretta Scott King, Magic Johnson, Rosie Perez, Laverne Cox, Dr. Tony Fauci, Wendy Williams, Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Robert Gallo, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Kweisi Mfume, Congresswomen Maxine Waters, HHS Secretary Katheen Sebelius, Wendy Williams, David Furnish, Dr. Dorothy Height, Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Luc Montagnier, Christina, Greg Louganis, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Reverend Doctor Joseph Lowery, Mondo Guerra, Jack Mackenroth, Professor Sharon Lewin, and Dr. Paul Volberding to name a few. Just as important, we’ve had community leaders like Julie Scofield, Terri Anderson, Pernessa Seele, William Green, Reggie Williams, Dennis DeLeon, Greg Millett, David Holtgrave, Cecilia Chung, Kathie Hiers, Linda Jackson, Peggy Van Ness, Ron Rowell, Sandy Thurman, Suki Ports, Noel Twilbeck, Miguelina Maldonado, Gene Copello, Benny Primm, Cornelius Baker, David Harvey, Barbara Joseph, Elton Naswood, Peter Staley, Carole Treston, Oscar de la O, Valerie Rochester, Jeff Crowley, Ivy Turbull, Lance Toma, Bambi Salcedo, Dazon Dixon, Marie St. Cyr, Evelyn Ullah, Mario Perez, Rev. Ed Sanders, Ernest Hopkins, Marsha Martin, Kurt Begaye, Beth Scalco, Chuck Henry, Murray Penner, Sharon Day, Kelsey Louie, and way too many others who provided training, facilitation or leadership for the meeting. This is definitely not an exhaustive list and there are so many more people to remember, I just wanted to document some of “the village” that it takes to make a good meeting, a good movement, and a long-term commitment to ending the epidemic in America.
Of all the speakers, Nkosi Johnson was my most memorable. At the 2000 USCA in Atlanta, then 11 years old Nkosi from South Africa addressed the conference with Cleve Jones. Both were living with AIDS, but unfortunately, Nkosi would pass 6 months after giving this speech. This young man was courageous and wise beyond his years. I can still hear his voice as he pleaded with the world to not forget about AIDS in Africa. His story still haunts my memories.
What would USCA be without the Divas who inspired us and helped us to remember. More than any other singer, Jennifer Hudson brought us to our feet at three (3) conferences and she will join us this year for our tribute to Orlando. Additionally, we’ve been inspired by Sheryl Lee Ralph, Shakira, Oletta Adams, Mary Wilson, Jennifer Lewis, several Miss America and Harvey Fierstein. Of course, my favorite was honorary board member Nancy Wilson’s concert at the Palm Springs USCA in honor of NMAC’s 20th Anniversary.
2007 USCA: Nancy Wilson, Palm Springs (click below to view)
We are part of a long and storied movement. In 2016 we have the opportunity to both learn about the future and remember the past. Thank you for being part of NMAC’s history and a leader in our movement’s future.