September 10, 2015 at 6:00 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Largest U.S. AIDS conference convenes in D.C.
Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Party, United States House of Representatives, U.S. Congress, California, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is scheduled to address the U.S. Conference on AIDS. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 1,000 people involved in efforts to fight the AIDS epidemic, including leaders of community-based organizations and government officials, are convening in Washington from Sept. 10-13 for the 19th Annual United States Conference on AIDS.

A wide range of events associated with the conference, including exhibits, panel sessions and workshops, are scheduled to take place at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in downtown Washington and the nearby Walter Washington Convention Center.

The conference is organized by the D.C.-based National Minority AIDS Council, or NMAC.

“USCA is the largest AIDS-related gathering in the U.S., bringing together thousands of workers from all fronts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic – from case managers and physicians, to public health workers and advocates, and people living with HIV/AIDS to policymakers,” according to a statement released by the chair of the conference’s D.C. Host Committee, Leo Rennie.

Rennie said that among other things, the objectives of the annual conference are “to build national support networks, exchange the latest information, and learn cutting-edge tools to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS.”

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci are among a number of congressional and federal government officials scheduled to address various conference sessions.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was scheduled to welcome conference participants at an opening reception sponsored by the Host Committee at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at the Walter Washington Convention Center.

Dr. Laura Cheever, administrator of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s HIV/AIDS Bureau, was to lead a panel on the future of the Ryan White Care Act. Three former directors of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy – Sandy Thurman, Dr. Grant Colfax, and Jeff Crowley – are scheduled to present a “behind the scenes” perspective on federal AIDS policy-making and “what it’s going to take to end the HIV epidemic.”

A conference session on the future of HIV prevention in the U.S., including efforts to curtail HIV transmission among men who have sex with men, is to be led by Dr. Eugene McCray, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.

Speakers at other sessions include Timothy Ray Brown, known as the “Berlin Patient” who says HIV has been effectively eliminated from his body through effective drug treatment; Dr. Jeremy Sugarman, an internationally known expert on biomedical ethics; and Peter Staley, a longtime AIDS and gay rights advocate involved with ACT UP New York and later one of the founders of the Treatment Action Group (TAG).

“USAC asked Peter to talk about the history of HIV activism to ensure we never forget our past,” a write-up accompanying the conference’s online agenda says. “More importantly, we’ve asked him to put activism into context that is relevant today. What happened to the urgency of our movement and how can we get it back?”

Michael Kharfen, Senior Deputy Director of the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration at the D.C. Department of Health, was scheduled to speak on a panel on how the Obama administration’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy is impacting D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Shawn Jain, director of communication, and Justin Goforth, director of community relations, for D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health, were scheduled to speak on panels addressing local community-based HIV/AIDS programs. Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, a national HIV advocacy group, was scheduled to speak on a panel about how Ryan White Care Act programs continue to be needed for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs in cities throughout the nation.

According to the conference website, the registration fee for attending conference sessions is $815 for the general public and $560 for federal government employees. The site says people 25 years old or less are eligible for a 50 percent discount on the registration fee.

For more information on the conference, visit 2015usca.org.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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