AIDS United announced on Tuesday that this year’s AIDSWatch, scheduled to occur in Washington, D.C., on March 30-31, is shifting to a virtual event. Because of the current outbreak of COVID-19 (the new coronavirus), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommended that people at higher risk of serious illness from this new virus cease any unnecessary travel and avoid crowd situations.
“Your health and the well-being of our communities is our primary concern,” the announcement from AIDS United read. “While this change is a departure for us, we believe a virtual AIDSWatch will allow us to learn and grow together while not putting any of us—especially all of us living with HIV—at risk or in harm's way.” The AIDSWatch news came in advance of Washington, D.C., officials declaring a state of emergency in the district on Wednesday afternoon due to COVID-19, urging that large gatherings not take place in the nation’s capital.
AIDSWatch is the largest national constituent-based HIV advocacy event in the U.S., bringing together hundreds of people living with HIV and their allies to have face-to-face meetings with members of Congress and/or their staff. This year, the training meetings regarding the latest policy issues, messaging strategies and advocacy tactics will be done via live video sessions. The team at AIDSWatch, which is co-organized by AIDS United, Treatment Access Expansion Project and the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus, is exploring options on how to make the congressional meetings happen, whether via phone, Twitter, and/or other online mechanisms.
Federal officials have committed to ending the HIV epidemic in the next 10 years. “We have the knowledge and the tools to end the epidemic in America,” the AIDS United website states. “However, meeting this goal will require substantial scale-up of solutions, removal of barriers, and real leadership.” AIDSWatch may look a lot different this year, but it’s just as important for members of our community to participate in the conversation in whatever manner is available to them.
Although details about the logistics of the virtual AIDSWatch are not complete, the announcement stated that more information would be forthcoming in the coming days and weeks. While refunds for the event are not being offered, it is recommended that any out-of-town travelers contact airlines and hotels directly for reimbursements for those expenses. In addition, all AIDSWatch 2020 registrants will receive half-off the cost of registration for AIDSWatch 2021.
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