Speaking, Listening, and Knocking at AIDS Watch 2024

Activism and Advocacy: Speaking, Listening, and Knocking at AIDS Watch 2024 

By Adriana Adams, THP’s Executive Director

Eva Lewis, founder of The I Project and Youth for Black Lives said, “To be an Activist is to speak. To be an Advocate is to listen. Society can’t move forward without both.”

Each year AIDS Watch, an annual gathering sponsored by AIDS United, brings together hundreds of people living with HIV, HIV advocates, allies, and loved ones, to learn about the latest HIV policy issues, strategize together, and then travel to The Hill to meet with Congressmen and Senators to impact HIV legislation.

This year I was honored to join the Southern AIDS Coalition and represent North Carolina as part of their AIDS Watch 2024 Southern Cohort.

On Sunday, March 17, 2024, over 350 HIV Activists and Advocates from all over the country began gathering in Washington, DC for the largest constituent-led HIV advocacy event in the country.

We talked, we ate, we planned, we laughed, and learned from one another. And we made a plan.

Our goal: to humanize and destigmatize. To put faces and names to the asks we would make of the Congressmen and Senators we’d meet- decriminalize HIV, create a National PrEP program to prevent new transmissions of HIV, and most of all, not to make any cuts to current HIV funding, particularly HOPWA-(housing funds for people living with HIV/AIDS).

Our meetings with Congressmen and Senators were back-to-back and utterly exhausting. Some let us into their offices. Some sent their aids into the hallway to meet with us on their behalf. Some refused the meetings.

As Activists, we told them our stories, and the stories of those we love. We talked about housing, social determinants of health, barriers to health care, and what funding for HIV means to our work.

As Advocates we were listening for the things unsaid, for the questions unasked. We noticed the doors that remained closed to us. As Advocates, these will be the people we continue to contact, to educate, to write to.

And wherever there was a closed door, that’s exactly where we’ll keep knocking in 2025.