Interview With HIV Treatment Activist And Educator Bob Munk

BJ Cavnor interviews Bob Munk at the HIV Research Catalyst Forum

Biomedical Prevention is Always About Social Justice, Too

Since 1983, when Michael Callen and  Richard Berkowitz wrote “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic,” most HIV prevention work has focused on individual behaviors, particularly around sex and drugs.  The prevention symposiums here are exploring many other prevention strategies that need much more research.  The Prevention Justice Alliance is calling attention to the structural drivers of HIV—socio-economic factors like racism, poverty, mass incarceration, homophobia, and homelessness—and showing that to defeat AIDS we must fight for social justice.  And this morning’s discussion of “Biomedical Interventions for HIV Prevention” also made it clear that HIV science can never be separated from social issues.

Biomedical prevention interventions target people who have HIV in order to reduce infectiousness, or people who don’t have HIV to reduce their susceptibility, or both. Monica Ruiz, from George Washington University, reviewed what is being researched now, including cervical barriers, microbicides, vaccines, treating and managing STIs, and post- and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PEP and PREP)—mostly with discouraging results so far.  read more »

Interview With Treatment Research Activist & Clinical Trial Participant Lionel Smith

BJ Cavnor interviews Lionel Smith at the HIV Research Catalyst Forum

Motivation and Willingness to Act

I just watched Jesse and Jonathan's video blog and encourage everyone to dudes rock!

After a long day where I presented one symposium on Immune Based Therapies and a workshop with the fab Tim Horn on the "Quest for a Cure" I am excited by the energy and passion I am witnessing at this new NATAF.

I am back in my room after watching American Idol Gives Back with the likes of Annie Lennox wearing an HIV Positive tee shirt, Elton John and Bill and Melinda Gates were interviewed about their work. I am reminded once again about the energy and committment of activists in every way.

After twenty+ years of living with HIV I am re-living all the days of NATAF (National AIDS Treatment Activist Forum) where I experienced similar feelings under very different circumstances. In those days people were dying at an alarming rate and we  we were still risking arrest to release our anger and grief. (I'm proud to say I was arrested 7 times in ACT UP civil disobedience actions all over the country.) We caucused, strategized, workshopped and planned die-ins. We learned all we could about the science, and represented PWHIV on CABs. We changed the course of HIV drug development. We were energetic and strategic. We plotted and planned. There was mobilization. We affected change. And things did slowly start to change, a result of much of our work.

So I can only hope this conference of a newer and energized group of prime AIDS activists will not just attend a confernce and blog and text but ACT in ways that can affect change in a new and different time of this epidemic, the way they know how.

Thanks Lei. xoxo

Interview With longtime HIV Activist Michael Mitchell

BJ Cavnor interviews Michael Mitchell at the HIV Research Catalyst Forum

Affirmation of Why We Are Here

Today was the first day of sessions for the HIV Research Catalyst Forum. It must be said the most rewarding part of the day was seeing the diversity of advocates for improving the research for those infected/affected with HIV/AIDS. It is a reminder the faces of HIV/AIDS cannot be reduced to a label, a target population, a lifestyle. Everyone has a voice and everyone matters.

To write all that I learned today would fill several pages of a blog. Therefore, I will just give a brief perspective. My takeaway from the day is that it epitomized the foundation of research, not accepting the facts as given. But asking the question that really move the focus from quantity of HIV (how many prevention services have been delivered, how much longer people are living with HIV/AIDS, how many new meds are being made available) to quality of life and care. Are prevention programs reaching to those who need it most? More importantly, are the programs effective. Have we explored all the factors that impact someone living with HIV/AIDS and developed solutions for them. What unforeseen consequences has living longer with HIV/AIDS brought about and how will it be addressed. And how do the achievements of the current administration (i.e. the health care reform bill) made the lives of PLWHA better? What did it not achieved? Though many of the questions did not have immediate or obvious answers, there was one question that has been answered on this first day? Who will be the ones finding the solutions? All of us who are here. For these research challenges provide us with the opportunity to advocate for our friends, our peers and our communities to see that they are overcome.

Interview with Phil Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute

Fred Schaich interviews Phil Wilson at the HIV Research Catalyst Forum

AIDS Watch - Next Week!

Hello everyone, just wanted to say what a great time I've been having at the Forum. I hope everyone who is attending is finding the information they need to take back to their home states!

I've had several questions regarding next week's AIDS Watch.  So, here's the link to NAPWA's page that discusses AIDS Watch

I've also got additional information that I can email you if you need it, so let me know.  You can talk to me at the Forum or you can email me at

Also, let me know what your state is doing to implement health reform!  I'll talk about that later.


Michael Foy Mitchell

Symposium Reflection: Confronting the Social Drives of HIV incidence in the US

Hey Everyone!

I must say that I have been completely floored (both positive and negative) by the goingson at the HIV Research Catalyst Forum. The amount of information that has been provided has literally changed my way of thinking and understanding of the field of HIV.

I attended the Prevention Symposium 1: Confronting the social drivers of HIV incidence in the U.S. and man was I conceptually challenged. I was challenged within that setting to really look closely at the various modes of HIV prevention. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was look for more new ways of thinking about HIV and I found it. I was amazed by the level of integrative approaches that activist and researchers are taking to try to address the high rates of HIV infection.

The gist of the symposium was that there needs to be more strategies employed to address that high rates of HIV infection among communities of color. Understanding the casual pathways that lead to HIV transmission can provide a variety of new and creative opportunities to intervene. For example, if a project can provide housing and job opportunities for homeless HIV positive persons and link them to care, then getting treatment decreases viral load and therefore risk of transmission. This type of creativity really elucidates the social, cultural, and structural issues that directly or indirectly impact a person's access to HIV information and services.

The housing project was just one example of how people are thinking differently about trying to address the high rates of HIV infection. This thrills my heart soooooo much-- that at least some scholars, researchers, and activist are starting to think more critically about complex and intersecting factors that impact people of color and their access.

So, round one goes to HIV Research Catalyst Forum for meeting my expectations me 0!

Upcoming Congressional Briefing on AIDS Research at NIH

For all you burgeoning HIV research advocates in the DC area- next Friday, April 30th, there will be a congressional briefing sponsored by some organizing committee members of the Catalyst Forum (amfAR, AVAC, TAG, etc.)

HIV and AIDS research supported by NIH has saved and improved the lives of millions and holds great promise for significantly reducing HIV infection rates and providing more effective treatments for those living with HIV/AIDS. Yet years of erratic funding levels for NIH have undermined our nation’s leadership in health research and our scientists’ ability to take advantage of the expand-ing opportunities to advance healthcare. Speakers will address the need for more investment in AIDS research- as well as advancements made in the last few years and what is in the pipeline for the future.  Attend if you can and make your presence known and voices heard!


AIDS Research At NIH: New Opportunities to Change the Course of the Epidemic


Friday, April 30, 2010
12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
at the
Rayburn House Office Building

Room B-338/339
South Capitol Street and Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C.

Lunch will be provided.


Anthony Fauci, M.D.
Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

Jack Whitescarver, Ph.D.
Director, Office of AIDS Research, Associate Director for AIDS Research, NIH

Wafaa El-Sadr, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs
Professor of Clinical Medicine and Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

Ada Adimora, M.D., M.P.H.
Associate Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine
Clinical Associate Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



Please RSVP by clicking here:
or by calling (202) 331-8600

The Symposiums

The conference could go on for another week - I wouldn't mind. And not because of the wonderful hotel and the great people, but because there is so much information.

I attended the 9:00 a.m. Treatment Symposium where David Evans began speaking about current treatment challenges. He wondered why people are surprised that HAART adherence remains an issue today. Certainly, someone taking one pill (or a few pills, sometimes) for the rest of their life is easy! Isn't it? Unfortunately, some health care professionals are baffled by non-adherence.

Nelson Vergel from PoWeRUSA discussed the issue of body image and how HAART is associated with metabolic disorders such as lipoatrophy, fat accumulation, and hyper-lactatemia. And thanks for the tip! "Never use the word 'cosmetic' when advocating for reconstructive surgery."

These topics are relevant to me as a future behavioral health professional. Psychologists or therapists who work in a medical setting can foster self-efficacy beliefs of individuals who are faced with the challenge of high percentage regimen adherence. They can also help patients with body issues and self-esteem, keeping in mind pressures of gay popular culture to appear a certain way.

At this morning's symposium, someone mentioned the issue of underreporting side effects from HAART. Patients, especially long-term survivors, sometimes compare side effects experienced today with side effects experienced 10-20 years ago. In the current health setting, face-to-face time with physicians is extremely limited. It often takes time and prodding to get to the bottom of a patient's true experience with their HAART regimen.

The point is that pharmaceutical companies market their drugs to physicians and inquire into patient well-being in terms of side effects.  Physicians sometimes (and the speaker believes this is more often than not) report that their patients are so grateful for the newest regimens that they report "all is fine." Because psychologists see patients more frequently, it is an excellent opportunity to lay this misinformation to rest. Psychologists should speak with primary care physicians about HAART side effects reported by clients, of course with patient consent, which is often the case in a multidisciplinary setting. Health psychologists need to speak up on behalf of their patients when pharmaceutical companies inquire into HAART side effects. This will offer support for the need to continue with funded research into new treatment options.

So much I've learned in just one day. Thanks HIVRCF.

Within two blocks of the Catalyst Forum lies the “Red Light District”

Red LightApril 20, 2010 marked the first evening of the Catalyst Forum, a colorful assembly of nascent and seasoned activists learning and offering knowledge about HIV Treatment and Biomedical HIV Prevention Research.  On the first evening I took a stroll with my good friend Nichole, within two blocks of the hotel we stumbled upon what we called the “Red Light District” of Baltimore. Oh yes, there’s the identifiable “at-risk woman” that we in our work, understand to be most likely to be exposed to HIV/STI infection through the occupational hazards of her means of survival.

As we continued to walk, I continued to think, what about the woman we don’t see, those women who are placed in the “non-identifiable risk” category because their greatest risk are the unknown risk behaviors of their partners?  Dare women ask their partner about their risk behaviors… only to be met many times with negativity and violence, when we are only trying to save our lives?  So what’s my approach for HIV Treatment and Biomedical HIV Research and women? To offer this through a lens of inviting women to understand that sex is and should be a self initiated, pleasurable experience, and how HIV affects their lives both in what we can deliver today and what we are developing for tomorrow.

Eroticizing safer sex is what my dear colleague Lisa Diane White of SisterLove calls a “Make-Up Kit” for the “Toolbox” of HIV prevention for women. What makes the “Make-Up Kit” so special you ask?  It examines all the ways we prioritize pleasure through prevention strategies and a self help model as a treatment for first providing healing spaces, then offering opportunities for self guided improvement through education.

So how do we as activists address the fact that we must make this opportunity available without judgment for the “at – risk” woman on the “Red Light District” and the “non-identifiable risk” woman whose life we don’t experience on the surface, that’s my question going into the first day of workshops at the HIV Research Catalyst Forum?


Jasmine Burnett

Aunt Betty's Basement

Hello to longtime and new activists!

I’m so excited to be here at the Forum with so many fellow longtime activists, and even more excited to see so many new advocates and activists in attendance. After last night’s stirring opening plenary I’m really looking forward to today’s schedule of presentations. I’ve been tweeting about the proceedings (#HIVRCF) on my page at and on the HPTN US HIV Prevention Team’s page at I’m also posting updates on .  I have a newsletter-style summary of HPTN’s current domestic prevention research studies (including ISIS, BROTHERS, TLC-Plus and iPrEP-PK) that I’ll leave on the info table this morning, and will gladly hand them out to anyone who wants to know about our studies, so if you see me between sessions and want one please just let me know. If you aren’t here at the Forum and want that that information it is on-line at .

Inspirational kick-off...

With inspirational talks tonight were finally off to an exciting conference full of gifted folks...Dinner was grand tonight.. Great to meet new people ..shout outs to all ....from the US and Oh Canada.. Each time I get into a CAB from now on I shall be reminded of this forum...

A few good reasons to invest in AIDS research

Last month, Treatment Action Group (TAG) in collaboration with amfAR published a policy brief titled "A Sound Investment: The Multiplier Effect of AIDS Research” to make the case to White House officials and congressional allies to push for more long term robust funding for AIDS research. For those of you who haven't yet read the brief-it is linked above and well worth checking out.

The brief includes really fascinating information including a timeline of major accomplishments in AIDS research over the last 29 years as well as some examples of how AIDS research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has benefited those living with other life-threatening diseases such as Cancer, Hepatitis B & C, heart disease and Alzheimer’s to name a few. The brief also talks about important scientific opportunities on the horizon for AIDS research and the consequences of our government's failure to consistently and adequately invest in AIDS and health research.

Copies of the brief will be available tomorrow (Wed, April 21, 2010) from 1:15 - 2:30 pm at the Skills Building Workshop titled "Where Does Research Happen & How is it Regulated and Funded?" Hope to see you there!

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