Hundreds Gather at Howard University for International HIV-Stigma Conferences

WASHINGTON (Dec. 10) – In spite of the rain and overcast skies, nearly 500 people from across the nation and the globe gathered for the first international conference on HIV-related stigma on World AIDS Day at Howard University.

Doctors, other health care clinicians, elected officials, people with HIV/AIDS and scientists from as far away as India gathered Dec. 1 in Cramton Auditorium for “International Conference on HIV-Related Stigma: The Attitude that Spreads HIV,” where participants discussed the impact and remedies to the stigma attached to the disease.

The conference was hosted by Howard University Hospital, Howard University Health Sciences and the Coalition to Eliminate AIDS-related Stigma.

A variety of speakers, including Washington, D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Miss America Caressa Cameron, Gregorio Millett, the senior policy advisor in on HIV/AIDS policy at the White House, and Dr. Suniti Solomon, founder-director of the Y.R. Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education in Chennai, India, spoke about the importance of battling stigma and its role in spreading HIV/AIDS.

The conference, which was Webcast by the World Health Organization to thousands across the Western Hemisphere, also featured Dr.Sohail Rana, HIV/AIDS specialist at Howard University hospital; Willo Pequegnat, Ph.D., author of Working with Families in the Era of HIV/AIDS and co-editor of Community Interventions and AIDS, and Jeff Johnson, political analyst and journalist for BET News.

Dr. Rafael Mazin, regional advisor for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Comprehensive Care for the Pan American Health Organization, and others led discussions on “Being Both Gay and at Risk for HIV,” “HIV-related Stigma in Health Care and Its Impact on Families” and “How Stigma and Lack of Disclosure Fuel this Cruel Disease.”

Other workshops covered “Faith, Spirituality, and HIV: Barriers and Facilitators to HIV Prevention,” “Criminalization of HIV”and “Stigma; Effect on Youth and Families.”  Panelists with HIV gave testimonies about how they had struggled with the stigma attached to the disease and members of the audience also spoke about their own difficulties with friends and family because of the stigma related to HIV.

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