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  • Writer's pictureJoe Hardgrave

RAPPS Attends the 2023 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit

To sum up the 2023 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit in two words: Holy F-CK! It

was the kind of show that could only be in Las Vegas and at no point did I stop being jaw


I rolled out to the infamous “Sin” city with the bossman, Cornelius Mabin, Jr. and

aspiring Director of Communications, Rahem White for the Summit from April 11th to April

12th , 2023. The first plenary session, MC’ed by the jubilant, Ken “The Barbie Doll,” on “Sex is Natural, Sex is Fun.” The politics of sex and pleasure in the age of pandemics, set the in-

your-face tone for the rest of the summit.

This first plenary session focused on safe sex-positivity themes in culture and

politics. I was impressed with all the speakers, especially Demetre Daskalakis, MD MPH,

Deputy Coordinator National Mpox Response, The White House (on assignment from

Director for the Division of HIV Prevention role at CDC) and Deondre B. Moore, GLAAD

Award Winning activist and HIV Plus 2022 person of the year. Deondre’s story of being

shamed earlier in his career for discussing having group sex hit home. As we know in this

work, candor without shame is a big part of it and so it was with every part of the summit.

The first break out session I attended that morning was nothing but candid and

opened my eyes to the utter disregard for Transgender people in HIV research. No Data, No

More: A Research Scorecard for Transgender Inclusion presented the fact transgender

people had only been recognized by researchers in 12 of the 41 “milestone” HIV studies

from 1991 to date and the transgender people included in those 4 studies only used

Transgender for 1% of the people studied. Without meaningful trans inclusion, there will

be no end to the HIV epidemic.

The afternoon plenary presented strategies to end the epidemic with ignorant states

like Tennessee. When the relatively few in power in a state government refuse massive

amounts of federal funding to fight the epidemic, everyone is hurt. Kelly Robinson,

President of the Human Rights Campaign delivered a message of undying resilience with

the work ahead. Keep your heads up out there and carry on. We must. Like one of the

speakers said, “I’m not living with HIV, HIV is living with me.”

I carried on into the afternoon breakout on Not Ready to Stop Chemsex. This was

presented by Andres Acosta Ardila, QLatinx, Orlando, FL, a former chemsex participant

same as me and I can tell you he knew what he was talking about. There is a brotherhood

out there amongst these people who use drugs and they have each other’s backs. People

will trade PrEP for drugs and keep each other informed about who to stay away from. It’s

all about harm reduction and our organization needs to reach these people to make an

impact on the epidemic…after all, this is how I acquired HIV.

My only complaint about the summit, if I were forced to make one with a gun to my

head would be the number of these breakout sessions at the same time. Despite how much

I soaked up, there was that much more I missed. My colleagues attended other sessions

you should ask them about and Rahem even missed the Mistr Reception featuring the best

drag queen I’ve ever seen. This performance by Derek “Brittany Spears” blew me away, but

I couldn't help to think about how this real American cultural form of entertainment is

becoming outlawed in state after state. There is bad shit brewing out there in case you

didn’t know and that’s why we’re glad to be back in the office here in Southwest Little Rock.

There’s still work to do.

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