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  • Writer's pictureRahem White

RAPPS at AIDSWatch 2023

For the last thirty years, AIDSWatch has facilitated hundreds of people living with HIV and their allies as they unite in Washington, D.C., to advocate for policies that will ultimately lead to the end of the HIV epidemic in the United States. This year, the event made a return to in-person functionality after four years of virtual meetings due to Covid-19. Arkansas RAPPS made up the only representation from the state of Arkansas, sending Carl and I to participate in what has become the largest constituent-led HIV advocacy event in the country.

At AIDSWatch we were brought up to date on issues with current policy and we were instructed on best practices for crafting our personal stories and interacting with legislators. During the training sessions, we gained vital information on topics such as molecular HIV surveillance, harm reduction advocacy, and reproductive health care and rights. The focus of this year's advocacy were policies relating to quality of life, access to health care, civil rights, aging with HIV, HIV decriminalization and federal funding. They identified seven areas for determining quality of life for people living with HIV:

  1. Health Care Access

  2. Housing

  3. Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services

  4. Supportive Services

  5. Access to Quality Food

  6. Employment

  7. Reproductive Choices.

Upon returning from this 3 day event, Carl relayed "AIDSWatch was the most intensive, well organized, HIV focused event I have ever attended. I enjoyed meeting people from across the nation, joined together with a common purpose." And that purpose continues here at home. We encourage you to reach out to your local HIV related organization to see how you can do your part, because we stand strong in our belief that together we can end the HIV epidemic in Arkansas.

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