September 13, 2010
"Advances in treatment options, as well as natural limitations of our nation's collective attention span, have contributed to a general decline in the public's sense of urgency when it comes to HIV/AIDS.
"But while the epidemic has largely fallen off America's radar screen, a cure continues to elude medical researchers, and infection rates remain alarmingly high. Those of us in the movement are often left wondering what can be done to make people listen.
"This is precisely why thousands of HIV/AIDS advocates and activists are gathering in Orlando next week for the United States Conference on AIDS -- to share their stories and help build a stronger movement.
"While some people might be reached through statistics alone, my experience has shown me that they are more likely to be moved by stories of how AIDS has affected someone they know and love. And that's the real value of the conference. It provides community and faith-based organizations, as well as those loosely aligned with the movement, the tools they need to be heard.
"In this sense, it is particularly fitting that this year's conference will be in Orlando, as this city's immense economic and ethnic diversity mirrors those communities that have been hit hardest by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"And while there are still plenty of other statistics to be shared -- someone is infected with HIV every nine-and-a-half minutes; one in five people living with HIV are unaware of their status -- I hope that we as a nation are able to look beyond them, and see the individual struggling to save his or her life or that of a loved one."
The author is executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council. For more information about the U.S. Conference on AIDS, visit www.nmac.org/index/2010-united-states-conference-on-aids.