Hundreds of AIDS advocates have converged on our nation's capital for AIDSWatch 2014 to meet with lawmakers and advocate for this year's HIV/AIDS funding and policy priorities. This year's AIDSWatch is sponsored by the Treatment AIDS Expansion Project (TAEP), AIDS United and the United States People Living with HIV Caucus (USPLHIV).
As advocates were networking over a continental breakfast this morning, Ernest Hopkins of the CAEAR Coalition and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation reflected on AIDSWatch:
"This morning marks the beginning of AIDSWatch 2014, the annual opportunity for the HIV advocacy community to come to Washington, D.C. and collectively educate the Congress and the Obama administration on the persistent impact of HIV in local communities across the U.S. Health insurance through the ACA is having a tremendous impact on health care access and delivery systems across the nation. But we know that implementation of Medicaid expansion and new state systems depend on where you live.
"That is why Congress must continue to annually fund programs like the Ryan White HIV Treatment Program, HIV prevention at the CDC, HIV research at the NIH, housing at HUD, and substance use and mental health services at HHS. They remain critically important."
Throughout the week, I will be reporting from AIDSWatch 2014 on the many amazing and emotional experiences that are sure to come out of this year's conference. As of this writing, this morning's briefing is about commence. I want to dedicate my efforts this year to the memory of Louis Curbelo and his surviving Rosalia.
I met Louis during my several years of service on the Broward County HIV Health Services Planning Council, a county advisory board with legislative authority and oversight over Ryan White Part A funding and programs. Louis and Rosalia attended our monthly meetings and often advocated for HIV/AIDS issues affecting Latinos.
In 2005, I invited Louis and Rosalia to join participate in the Campaign to End AIDS pre-rally in Washington DC. They flew up and performed their music with south Florida flair.
Louis valiantly lost his battle to AIDS on May 17, 2010. His dying wish was to meet President Obama and thank him for his commitment to an AIDS-free generation. Louis's dream was never realized, but Rosalia has vowed to honor Louis's dream and, inspired by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), she recently expressed Louis's legacy through art. Her dream is for her artwork to make it into the hands of President Obama before Louis's death anniversary on May 17th.
Below is video of Rosalia explaining the artwork and her dream to have it presented to President Obama in memory of Louis and in acknowledgement of the President's commitment and response to AIDS in America:
While in Washington, D.C. for AIDSWatch 2014, I hope to help make Rosalia's dream become a reality.