NMAC was proud to bring several 50+ Strong & Healthy scholars to this year’s Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit. Scholars attended workshops and plenaries, networked with other attendees, and advocated for the needs of older adults living with HIV and other Long Term Survivors. Read their reflections on their experience at the Summit:
The 2023 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit was astounding. I felt the theme of sex positivitywas felt throughout the conference and especially in the opening plenaries. The speaker taking off their clothes and having vulnerable conversations in a casual manner spoke volumes as to what can be achieved across different levels of comfort. The workshops and abstracts were very informative. This Summit is the first time I have ever learned of Doxy PEP to prevent Chlamydia and syphilis infections if treatment begins after 72 hours of exposure. The summit inspired me to learn more of the usual PEP we use for HIV prevention and how it can be used with Doxy PEP for patients that are at higher risk of exposure or have come in for treatment of chlamydia or syphilis within short periods of time. In addition, I enjoyed the exhibit hall that provided insights on efforts both locally and nationally. The inclusion of many black women was inspiring, even if there aren’t enough programs to support black women. Furthermore, I continue to learn more from the Spanish-speaking sessions that helped me gain a deeper understanding of the barriers to care in immigrant communities. Being in the 50 plus group, and being the only vertical, highlights the work that needs to be done for those of us who are lifetime survivors. I look forward to using what I have learned in this Summit, especially in advocating for Doxy PEP, programmatic support for black women, and equitable access to care to the Latinx community. Since returning from the conference, I have worked with patients to fix auto English translation issues with their mobile devices so they may understand their forms in their language. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow the voice of the people born positive. – Nestor Kamurigi (Rogel)
My name is Bobby Avalos, and I have been HIV Positive since 2003; yes, that’s 20 years. I joined HIV 50+ Strong and Healthy just this last year. Through my Struggles, Triumphs, Adherence, and Advocacy, I have “Adapted My Life, To Live my Life”. One day at a time.
I am humbled and honored to have been this year, and I attended the 2023 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit. As I entered the Summit, I began thinking of this next phase of my life, turning 50. I found myself rekindling the first days of my HIV Diagnosis in 2003. It is no wonder I had new concerns, questions, attitudes, struggles, goals, triumphs, and new ways of advocating for myself and others in my community who are 50+.
I really enjoyed the plenaries. This summit really engaged the topic of Sex. How we see it,
How we do it, how we express it, and how we enjoy it. I felt myself feeling so Heard, so Validated, so Uplifted, so Supported, and so Encouraged and Excited to continue having great Sex. In the very opening Plenary of the Summit, I heard and received this statement, from one of the Presenters, Rodney McCoy, that gave me so much Life…. “HIV lives with me. I was Here First.” This opened my eyes, not only with and for my HIV Health, but for my HIV 50+ Strong and Healthy Advocacy going forward. – Bobby Avalos
I liked the message of accepting pleasure. It gave us the insight to be able be ok with what makes us feel good and how important that is. Sexual liberation was a clear message at that plenary. The presenters and performances were great. I especially loved Victoria Von Blaque (who I got to ride home to NY with on Jet Blue) and everything she represented. I also loved that one of the presenters disrobed and had a chat with us nearly naked modeling how we can be comfortable in our own skin.
The introduction of the concept of making HIV Prevention healing-centered, taking trauma to joy, was a powerful message, as well.
It was also wonderful to see Paul dancing and pulling people from the audience up to dance, so much fun.
Workshop#1 CIS Can We Talk
This was a great sharing experience with discussions on how PrEP language is not speaking to women and how Black Women Centered care is needed. We discussed the over sexualization of women starting at an early age that has added to the shame we often feel as women about our bodies. It was truly an opportunity to share openly and honestly having provided a safe space for women. This was a powerful workshop and I left feeling empowered as a Black Woman.
With that being said, there was something that I felt needed to be added. From the marketing of the event to all the representation there needed to be some representation for older adults. The marketing, advertisement and images at the venue were missing that representation. As an older adult sexual being, I wanted to see me reflected in that event, knowing that we are still a vibrantly sexually active community. It’s hard to find them but those images are out there.
The highlight of the Summit for me was meeting up with Monica Johnson, Founder and CEO of H.E.R.O.E.S. I met her 28 years ago when she attended a training sponsored by WHO (World Health Organization). I did a workshop on presentation skills and had the privilege of meeting her then. It was at that event Monica first got the seed money for her organization. Through her dedication and motivation, her organization is still in existence, helping people living with HIV. She has achieved so many accolades since then and she is still a beautiful humble soul. I’m so happy I got to hug her and chat with her. So overjoyed she is doing well and I’m so proud of her. It made my entire day to run into her after all these years. That’s what I love about the NMAC Conferences and Summits, they provide opportunities to bring us all together, to love on each other and say job well done keep up the good fight.
Thanks again for the opportunity, I love my 50+ Strong and Healthy Program family. – Denise Drayton
The 2023 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit in Las Vegas was amazing. I attended with the 50+ Strong and Healthy Cohort. Some were my friends, and others I didn’t know. I wish there had been a networking event for those 50+ to get better acquainted with each other. We’re aging together; we can relate and should connect. And I think a friendly evening event with perhaps drinks would make a great networking atmosphere to do that.
The host hotel was terrific, and the room was beautiful, with a glorious view from the 50th floor. I’ve never been so high in a building in all my life. I loved that I didn’t have to leave the hotel’s safety to eat, get a drink, or have fun, party, and unwind. I think that is as important an element of any conference as the plenaries or workshops we attend because we work hard and long all the time; we don’t have off days because we’re constantly checking our emails and schedules. So being able to unwind, relax, and network together is vitally essential for seasoned advocates.
The opening plenary was ammmaaazzzzing!!! It was so much fun to watch. The beautiful men were a perfect touch, and the pole dancers were terrific. I just totally loved the whole theme of sex and kink positivity. We must do that more. The speakers were great. I loved them all but loved that women were well-represented by amazing women.
Overall, I think the conference was excellent, and I had a great time. I needed it. Thank you so very much for the opportunity!! – Katie Willingham
This was by far one of the best conferences I have attended, and this is the first time I have been to the HIV Biomedical Summit. I think it could have been longer since there were so many sessions that I wanted to attend. I absolutely loved the Plenary’s topics and speakers. My first session was “Understanding Taboo Sexuality, from Queer Sex to Bug Chasing.” This session was fascinating since it made many people uncomfortable talking about sex and seeing them come out of their shells by the end. I think it is a great thing that this conference was around sex. Talking about sex is so important, especially in HIV care and prevention. The next one I attended was a long overdue topic, “No fats, No Femmes, No Asians.” I am part of the Asian Community, and this topic must be talked about to me. The Asian community is also one of the most underserved when it comes to talking about sex and HIV. Attending this session was very empowering, and I have applied for a position on NMAC’s Constituent Advisory Panel. I hope to see more Asian Community members attend these conferences either as a topic hosts or just attending.
Thank you, NMAC, for this opportunity. I am very grateful to be a part of your community. – Rob Ingwerson
A family reunion is how any conference feels. The 2023 HIV Biomedical Summit was no different—being around so many people living with the same stigmatized & criminalized virus I live with and those who paved the way for me to be as healthy and thrive as I do. Priceless!
The opening plenary was terrific –sex positivity and never being ashamed of who we are and what we want in life is how I raised my children. I genuinely feel this country will be a better place when we succeed in getting this message out. Deondre Moore’s salute to Black Women was impressive beyond words.–Queens have brought more to our society than they have been given credit for and deserve to be lifted up. Dr. D and talking about how Trauma-informed care is healing-centered and how we need to make HIV Prevention also healing-centered, which means focusing on the PLEASURE and the JOY of the people we serve. PREVENTION THAT SUPPORTS DESIRE. Our JOY is HIV Prevention IT IS NOT HIGH RISK.
I went to several sessions on Tuesday. One was “Sex, Baby: Let’s tell stories about you and me,” I had to stand up and ask, “Where are the voices of those over 50, aging with HIV?“ As a person who acquired HIV at the age of 45, I will live a long life, but what can I expect? What help is there for us?” I feel that they do not put enough emphasis on those of us aging in any arena around HIV., PrEP isn’t geared towards us. In any way, really. Going forward, I hope to change that with my story and shouting from the rooftops that “WE MATTER.“
I also attended the “Missing Voices: Engagement of CisHet Black men in HIV” workshop. So many heterosexual men are missed in research, marketing, and other areas of HIV; we need to make sure their voices are heard! I feel we need to NORMALIZE testing & PrEP for EVERYONE & ANYONE having sex, no matter what!!!
I am very honored to have been chosen to attend the summit as a 50+ cohort member, and I will take what I learned and use it within my community. – Sonya Milliman
It was a great theme, Sex and Pleasure. The Opening Plenary was awesome and insightful. “If you can’t talk about sex, how can we talk about HIV prevention?” “Jubilant!!” “Black Woman are Gold.” It really calmed the inhibitions, reduced the stigma in the room and simply was a conversation while providing information and tools that can be used when talking to people in the community about HIV, STI’s and PrEP. I felt validated because when I have conversations with Older Adults about Sexual Health, I lead with we all got here through sex and it helps them to relax, open up, and participate in the discussion.
I got some great catchphrases out of the plenaries, as well. “HIV is living with me; I was here first.” “Pleasure-based strategies work.”
The workshop titled, “Hey Cis, can we Talk…? Black Women Sexuality and PrEP,” was full of information and I left the session with more tools for my HIV Prevention tool kit. Do you know the most common STIs associated with vaginas? I do now. Listening to five Black Professional Women present this information was rewarding and uplifting. “You are kind, you are smart, and you are important.”
I stepped out of my comfort zone and participated in a video conversation – “Letter to a Black Women.” Each time I share my experience/story and challenge my fears I am empowered more to speak up and speak out.
Our 50+ Scholars meeting brings me back to a safe space to share, cry and gain more freedom from the stigma of it all. Thank you.
The Closing Plenary was outstanding. “You will never get to the End of HIV, if you don’t end it for Black Women”.
So, I left the Summit full of hope, tired, and with both a question and a charge. The question– How do you develop a medication that Black and Latinx Older Adult Women were not in the trials, outreach and marketing and then ask the same population to be okay with taking medication and pushing the narrative? The charge- 1)” For Us, From Us, By Us” 2) What will our action look like 3) GLOW 4) We will not be an afterthought. – Victoria Graves-Cade