NMAC, the group behind the annual conference previously known as the United States Conference on AIDS, has responded to criticism from the community on its changing the conference’s name. Within a week after the organization changed the name of the conference from “USCA” to “USCH,” replacing the A for “AIDS” with an H for “HIV,” the conference is now named the USCHA, or the U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS, per a blog post on NMAC’s website published on Tuesday.
“The politics of HIV and AIDS can be difficult,” Paul Kawata, NMAC executive director, wrote in the post. “Sometimes you have the best of intentions and it still goes wrong. Last week we made a mistake and I apologize. My Facebook post on the United States Conference on AIDS name change set off a firestorm of comments that I hope this e-newsletter will clarify.”
In the post, Kawata once again invokes the Denver Principles, which he also referenced when originally defending the change to TheBody earlier this month. Kawata said, as he had previously, that the change was meant to address the fact that many community members felt the word “AIDS” had become stigmatizing. However, after the organization announced that it had changed the name of the conference from USCA to USCH, people living with AIDS pushed back, saying that the move erased people with an AIDS diagnosis.
“Many of us that are living with an AIDS diagnosis feel as though most AIDS service providers are moving away from acknowledging we are still here,” Ed Barron, who has been living with HIV since 1986 and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1993, told TheBody at the time. “Very few are even addressing the issues we experience. It’s like we don’t exist.”
To that point, Kawata said that fighting for people with AIDS is a shared value between himself and NMAC.
“I would never intentionally do anything to erase People Living with HIV or AIDS,” Kawata wrote. “Unfortunately, to some PWAs, our action looked like the opposite of its intention.”
The blog post also detailed that the move came after a call with NMAC’s board on Friday. NMAC reached out to several groups, including the Positive Women’s Network, Positively Trans, and the U.S. People Living With HIV Caucus and subsequently invited them to the 2020 USCHA to facilitate a community discussion about the terms.
The now-named USCHA will take place in October in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The theme is “Luchando por Nuestras Vidas” or “Fighting for Our Lives.”