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Notes From a Summit Organizer: Positive Women's Advocacy Grows in Baton Rouge

March 21, 2012

Sharon DeCuir

Sharon DeCuir

If you haven't had many opportunities to attend HIV-related conferences, you might wonder just what happens at these gatherings. Four women in our community wrote about their experiences at various conferences over the past year, and shared some of the information they gathered. This is one of those accounts.

In the very beginning stages of planning the second annual Women's HIV/AIDS Advocacy and Leadership Summit, it seemed like it was going to be oh such an easy task. However, that feeling of excitement and adrenaline soon changed. There were deadlines, and all of a sudden we were hit with the fact that we were working within a timeline that was becoming very short extremely quick.

One of the challenges was finding the right hotel that would be accepting to a group of women who would be coming together to learn about advocacy and creating changes concerning women living with HIV/AIDS. I wanted to find somewhere that had a staff that was open to working with HIV-positive people. I looked at three different sites, and decided on the Radisson because of their willingness to work with us. They agreed to discount space and room rates to help us stay within the constraints of a budget that we really had no idea of what it was going to be at that point, because we were still in the early stages of sending out requests for donations to support the Summit.


As a resident of Baton Rouge:
As a resident of Baton Rouge, and a person living with HIV, I truly wanted other women from my hometown and other areas of the state to see that advocacy is an important part in ensuring that women living with HIV receive quality care and resources to support them living with HIV -- such as housing, prevention and protection from being criminalized for having HIV.

Powerful moments for me:
One powerful moment for me was the opening lunch, because this was the realization that the Summit was here and about to be in full swing. There was no longer any time to get done all that was not done, and it was time to work. Working for me meant making certain that the Summit went smoothly. I accepted full charge and responsibility of extending Southern Hospitality, which included providing everyone with a warm welcome to Baton Rouge, La.

What disappointed me the most:
I was really disappointed that Governor Bobby Jindal did not agree to see us, because I am a current member of the Governor’s Commission on HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. But being able to join the Occupiers Rally at the State Capitol gave more significant meaning to our action, because as they were protesting for human rights and the American Dream … it's a human right for women and others living with HIV to have access to housing, prevention and medications, and not be criminalized for having HIV.

Why these types of Summits are important:
These types of gatherings are important because they rejuvenate the soul, and at the same time give participants a chance to learn from others a new way of doing something -- or even provide them with more direction to move something forward in their own communities.

Planning the Summit was a team effort, and I’d like to thank Meta, Millicent and Victoria for assisting me in putting it all together.

Sharon DeCuir is the prevention program coordinator at HAART (HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two, Inc.), in Baton Rouge, and has been working at the organization for more than three years. She was instrumental in bringing the summit to that city last year.

Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
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