The Summit from a 50+ Perspective

50+ Strong & Healthy Program Scholar Zeke Garcia attended NMAC’s 2018 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit. He contributed this report on his experience.

Since the provenance of HIV’s existence in my life, I have fought the good fight to end this epidemic. The foundation of this work is providing an integrated, comprehensive approach to treatment support. I am dedicated and driven to maintain, encourage, and support prevention and HIV  treatment engagement. While at the recent HIV Prevention Summit in Las Angeles I experienced discussions, debates, questions, and concerns that promote fact based information, understanding, respect, and compassion for PLWH. My initial takeaway was the discussion on PrEP and the Trans community and data limitations, lack of physicians and healthcare along with the need for cultural components including interpersonal HIV, PrEP, PEP, and TASP strategies of prevention, streamlined for Trans enrollment in biomedical services led by human capital, visibility, and transparency. PrEP offers a new paradigm of choices, decisions, actions, and responsibilities.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to be catalysts for real change in the world; not just with our bodies, but with our minds and actions. It invites us to rethink HIV prevention and sex as tools for expanding love, information, and compassion, instead of promoting fear, shame, and stigma, encouraging all to be part of a revolution of community, integrity, and unity by engaging in informed discussion. I believe in the power of information and education to transcend and empower individuals and communities.

As discussed in a session regarding HIV and Incarcerated Populations, those going into custody tend to be at elevated risk of HIV; I believe PrEP within the correctional setting encompassing gender affirming care for Gay,Trans and Cis gender inmates with a history of transactional sex and sexual trauma are key elements of the prevention continuum challenge.

Being privy to the groundbreaking Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) plenary was a highlight for me as an educated HIV Positive Latinx Gay man; I am personally inspired by the campaign. The information of today’s poor historians of HIV is outdated, stigmatizing, and fear based messaging which has quenched opportunities to improve the lives of people living with HIV, dismantle HIV stigma, and prevent new transmissions. I have personally amplified my role as an HIV Educator,  Community Health Worker, and Long Term Survivor of HIV. I actively advocate through sharing science based information within my community. The foundation of the certainty that U=U offers freedom and hope for many people living with HIV and their partners opens up social, sexual, and reproductive choices I never thought would be possible. It is an unprecedented opportunity to transform the lives of people thriving with HIV. As a USCA/NMAC 50 + Scholar I trust that a strong public health awareness of universal access to diagnostics, treatment as prevention will save lives and bring us closer to ending the epidemic.

Zeke Garcia HERRS/PN/CHW
He, Him, His, Él