Event geared toward health professionals and AIDS policy makers, but local organizers hope service consumers will attend, too
The 2006 HIV Prevention Leadership Summit, presented by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Minority AIDS Council, opens June 4 in Dallas. The event offers three full days of workshops and presentations and a performance by actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, AIDS activist and the celebrity spokeswoman for the council.
The summit was originally scheduled for Miami. But activists and AIDS service providers in North Texas were notified in December that the annual event was being moved to Dallas instead, according to Efren Garcia, who co-chairs the host committee with longtime activist Jaime Schield.
“We got very short notice,” Garcia said. “Typically, you get a year to plan. We’ve had about six months, so we have really been scrambling. But we’ve done a good job.”
Garcia said the summit is geared toward health professionals and AIDS policy makers, specifically those who receive grant funds from the Centers for Disease Control.
“But locally, we’ve been pushing it among people who have HIV, especially people in minority communities, so that they have the chance to get an idea of what is going on in terms of treatment and policies and how the different agencies and organizations work,” Garcia said. “There will be a lot of different very informative workshops people can attend.”
Schield said he believes the summit provides an invaluable opportunity for communication between individuals and organizations working different places and in different aspects of the battle against AIDS.
“Many of the agencies and individuals working to provide services for persons with HIV disease or to prevent the spread of the virus have limited opportunities to come together and work collaboratively,” Schield said.
It has also given organizations in North Texas the chance to highlight their efforts and accomplishments, he said.
“The conference and the role of the host committee has brought together about 100 individuals from all across the region to showcase our programs and agencies to the nation,” Schield said.
“Even the national sponsors have been complimentary on how efficient and dedicated we are. Often they have to step in and do host work themselves. In our case, we have been asking for more,” Schield added. “It has been great to see providers and consumers in Dallas, Fort Worth and Sherman come together to volunteer.”
The committee co-chairs said about 110 volunteers have worked to coordinate the event. But more volunteers are needed, and for every day an individual volunteers at the summit, he or she will be able to attend on day of the conference free of charge, Garcia said.
Garcia said the committee’s responsibilities included putting together activities that will showcase the city, such as the reception dinner on June 5 at Gilley’s nightclub.
But the committee’s key role, Garcia said, was helping put together the conference program of workshops, institutes and plenary sessions.
That involved reviewing hundreds of abstracts submitted from across the country and submit the best to officials with the Centers for Disease Control for final approval, Garcia said.
The sessions are divided into five tracks: knowledge of serostatus; HIV prevention, care and treatment linkages; targeted, sustained and effective interventions; and strengthening capacity and infrastructures of organizations, communities, evaluation efforts, epidemiology and surveillance systems.
Making the final cut were workshops, roundtables and plenary sessions on targeting specific communities, on HIV rapid testing, the effect of crystal meth use on the HIV epidemic and prevention strategies, among other topics.
One of the highlights will be Ralph’s performance of her one-woman show, “Sometimes I Cry: The Loves, Lives and Losses of Women Infected and Affected by HIV/AIDS,” on the opening evening of the summit at the Hilton Anatole, host hotel for the summit.
The Jamaican-born actress and singer has been active in the fight against AIDS since 1990 when she founded The Diva Foundation and the annual AIDS fundraiser, “Divas Simply Singing.”
For more information about Ralph’s performance and a complete summit schedule, go online to www.nmac.org. To volunteer, contact Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org or Schield at email@example.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 26, 2006.