Recap: HIV Prevention and Outreach Summit

Philadelphia FIGHT welcomed almost 1,000 advocates to Philly for the one-day event


Yesterday, hundreds of healthcare leaders and LGBT advocates gathered at the Convention Center for a full day of events as part of AIDS Education Month. Sponsored by Philadelphia FIGHT, the HIV Prevention and Outreach Summit invited attendees from around the country – including presenters from several local organizations like the Mazzoni Center – to tackle the disease 30 years after it was first recognized by the scientific community.

The U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Deborah Parham-Hopson delivered the keynote address to a crowd consisting of HIV prevention workers, city agency reps, youth and faith-based leaders, people living with HIV and AIDS and other LGBT advocates. In her role in the current administration, Parham-Hopson is an administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau and manages the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, in charge of $2 billion that funds health and medical care, treatment and support services.

And according to several advocates who took part in yesterday’s event, not only are women and young people among the most at-risk for being infected today, but HIV infections among gay and bisexual men are also on the rise.

“The facts about HIV prevalence in our community are alarming. According to the CDC, gay and
bisexual men are the only risk group in the United States among which the rate of new HIV infection is increasing,” says Mark Seaman, director of development and communications at Philadelphia FIGHT. “Gay and bisexual men have, in large part, become complacent about their increased risk. Also, because HIV prevalence in this community is so great, because substance abuse plays a part, and because social and economic factors increase barriers to healthcare in this community, the pandemic rages on.”

The summit tackled tough issues throughout the day during several panels about research, domestic policy, prevention and the impact of culture on the disease. Local artist Jonathan Laidacker unveiled a mural he created, inspired by the impact of the disease on his own community.

This is the 17th year the summit has taken place in Philly. AIDS Education Month has been organized every year since June of 1994 by Philadelphia FIGHT to bring awareness to this ongoing issue. Look for other events this month, as well, like special outreach opportunities with more test centers throughout the region, along with educational initiatives co-chaired by the St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and the Women’s Community Revitalization Project.

“We must confront these issues now,” says Seaman. “We must encourage one another to get tested, to use condoms, and to become better educated about the disease.”