Local and national AIDS advocates brought the 2012 International AIDS Conference home to Chicago Sept. 6-7.
The Black Treatment AIDS Network (BTAN), in partnership with local service providers, recapped parts of the conference in two evening conversations about the future of HIV/AIDS advocacy and Black communities.
The Chicago presentation was one of 15 hosted by the Black AIDS Institute across the United States.
Phill Wilson, founder of the Black AIDS Institute and a former Chicagoan, presented at the Sept. 6 event at the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center.
Wilson told a room of 35 attendees that the fight against HIV has changed and that service providers who fail to adapt will fail to curb the virus.
"We have the tools to end AIDS in America today," he said. "The question is not, 'Can we?' The question is, 'Will we be using the tools that we have today?'"
Wilson called on attendees to support the Affordable Care Act; back Medicaid expansion; encourage HIV-positive people to come out if they can; fight stigma; re-educate themselves about HIV; and combat the virus with both scientific and behavioral interventions.
Wilson said the effort to end AIDS in Black communities must come from Black communities themselvesfrom churches and businesses to organizations and individuals.
"If we are going to save our people from HIV, we have to be the ones doing the saving," he said.
Louis Spragginsregional care coordinator for South Side Help Center and one of about 30 "Black AIDS Delegates" to represent the Black AIDS Institute at the International AIDS Conference this yearled the room in a discussion on deep impacts of stigma on HIV/AIDS communities.
Spraggins screened talks by conference speakers who laid out the forms stigma can take against HIV-positive people and service providers and how advocates might combat it.
The bottom line, said Spraggins, is that everyone needs to work to ends AIDS.
"Everything that we do has a far-reaching effect beyond ourselves," he said.
Attendees concluded the evening with a group discussion about local efforts to end stigma and mobilize communities against AIDS.