At the end of September, I had the opportunity to attend the conference, "Women Living With HIV/AIDS: The Ripple Effect, in Hawaii." It has been a great experience and a joy for me to see more infected women coming forward to participate in conferences as key speakers, panelists, and audience participants. The Hawaii conference organizers did an excellent job in including women who actually have the virus on all levels.
It became clear to me that as infected women we are beginning to come together and stand up for what we need in terms of our healthcare and services.
It was a natural high to see a significant number of infected women of so many different cultures coming together as a community to try and make positive changes in the HIV/AIDS service and healthcare system. As infected women, we were collectively vocal about how this disease is affecting our lives, our loved ones, and our families. So many of us would like to think that AIDS is a gay white male disease. Too many women are living proof that anyone can get AIDS.
A Sense of Community
The Hawaii conference was an overwhelmingly empowering experience. It became clear to me that as infected women we are beginning to come together and stand up for what we need in terms of our healthcare and services.
It is also inspiring to see both, infected and affected women working together for better healthcare services. "Affected by HIV/AIDS" is the term we use for those who have immediate family members or loved ones who either have AIDS or who have died from AIDS but who do not have HIV/AIDS themselves. I feel that if we pull together now and let our voices be heard, we can truly make a difference for women facing this disease. I feel that it is important to focus on our one commonalty, HIV/AIDS, regardless of the differences in our cultural up bringing, our sexual orientation, our belief systems or our economic status. We must pull together and support each other in the fight against this disease and the stigma attached to it.
In The Forefront
It is my hope that organizers of future HIV/AIDS conferences for women would follow the example of Hawaii and continue to put infected women first. I felt right at home attending this conference because women who actually have this virus were in the forefront. There was a real feeling of community. I hope to hold on to that feeling and to be able to instill a sense of community in other women dealing with AIDS.
On behalf of Women Alive, I would personally like to thank the conference organizers: Nancy Kern/conference chairperson, Darlene Hein/scholarships & child care, Cynthia Medina/program information & private housing, Jayne Bopp/exhibit tables, and Jo McKeague/Bishop Museum Reception for allowing Women Alive members the opportunity to be a part of this experience.