USCA (United Conference on AIDS) 2010 Addressing Disparities through Civil Rights Advocacy NAACP

The United States Conference on AIDS is the foremost forum on domestic HIV/AIDS issues. HIV/AIDS activists from all over the country gather to present, discuss, and share their organization’s agenda and programs. This year the NAACP was chosen to conduct a seminar on our HIV/AIDS advocacy work and its correlation with civil rights advocacy.

Fighting for social justice is the mantra of this organization. Our history is cemented with courtroom victories and triumphant boycotts. Most people have viewed the photos of protesters getting bitten by dogs and beaten with clubs in an effort not only to get equality for all but to also get the message to masses that injustice is wrong. However, the new injustices that plagued our community are not so blatant with their discrimination and that’s how our seminar began. The Health Director, Shavon Arline, introduced the NAACP team that included Climate Justice Director, Jacqui Patterson, Criminal Justice Director Robert Rooks, Project Consultant Dr. Tammy Henry, and Membership Assistant Michael Jordan.

The NAACP opened with a viewing of a civil rights clips from “Eyes on the Prize” to set the tone and connect the past with the present. The audience was asked to provide feedback about what they think of when they hear NAACP. They provided various answers stemming from “tradition” to “conservative.” With this Ms. Arline further described the historical significance of the NAACP’s work and how it parallels the fight against HIV/AIDS. She also spoke about how this disease affects our NAACP family personally. Staff member Michael Jordon presented his personal account of “advocacy in action” as a person living with the virus and sharing his story to the public by doing grassroot education on the local level.

Mr. Rooks brought insight into criminalization and how the justice system has a linear affect on the HIV/AIDS crsis. Dr. Henry stressed the importance of advocates collaborating with the research community on HIV/AIDS projects and the responsibility to protect the communities we serve. Finally, Jacqui Patterson spoke about the plight of women infected by the virus and affected by HIV/AIDS.

We ended this session by breaking the 100 participants into groups and asking them to think about their current work in civil rights and how the same templates can used in HIV/AIDS advocacy. Our goal at USCA 2010 was not only to highlight the work that the NAACP is doing around HIV/AIDS but to also empower others to continue to address health inequities related to HIV/AIDS by realizing that this struggle is no different than other fights that we have taken part in. It will take diligence, perseverance, and all parties focused on the common goal. Eliminating HIV/AIDS in communities of color! Shavon said it best “in the past we were bitten by dogs, now HIV is one of the new faces of civil rights advocacy in our community.” For more information on the conference and other events email Morgan J. Shannon, Program Specialist for Health and Climate Justice at mshannon@naacpnet.org.