AIDS 2016

Reflections from the 2016 International AIDS Conference hosted in Durban South Africa:

“All of the conference sessions were divided by topic (men who have sex with men, young girls, sex workers, etc.). My Davidson type A personality enjoyed the organization. However, these divisions are part of the reason why we haven’t ended the spread of AIDS. We (the global community) have the drugs to make everyone with AIDS virally suppressed. Virally suppressed individuals can’t spread the virus to someone else. Sadly, funding for AIDS is so limited that advocacy groups end up “competing” against one another for attention/grants. Furthermore, divisions allow people to solely fight for the rights of one group and ignore the rights of another. Every Warner girl knows that we can achieve so much together; we see it every year with our Red & Black Ball. If all AIDS and human rights organizations came together the way Warner comes together every fall, then we could truly end the spread of AIDS and save lives all around the world. This conference really promoted AIDS as a human rights issue for all persons and not just some. It’s a global epidemic and it’ll take global partnerships to end it.” – Joi Stevens, Class of 2017




“At the opening session of the conference, Charlize Theron stated that the reason we haven’t beaten the AIDS epidemic is because “we value some lives more than others”. Charlize underscored a theme that I saw throughout the week, that the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS are human rights.  In fact, the theme of the conference was “Access Equity Rights Now”. This was a major message that I took home from the conference because I think it highlights the importance of Red & Black Ball and our other fundraising events. Not only are we raising money for RAIN and the Mwandi Christian Hospital, but we are helping them to combat the disparities in human rights that exist within the United States and worldwide. As an organization of young women, I think it is also important to recognize that women and adolescents are key populations for the spread of HIV. In raising awareness, we are also supporting the rights of women and young people just like us around the globe. In conclusion, I hope to bring back to Davidson the idea that HIV/AIDS is more than a disease that needs a scientific cure. The reality is that we already have the necessary tools and medications to prevent the spread of HIV and treat the disease of AIDS, but that people are still contracting the virus and dying because not everyone in the world is given the same basic rights.” – Kathleen Spritzer, Class of 2018




“Coming home from the conference has left time to reflect and think back on the many conversations we had both together and with other people during the conference. We were fortunate enough to have each other to help process each day and learn from what they others had taken from their sessions of the day. One of the things I am still feeling almost two weeks post-conference is a drive towards education and awareness. As Joi and Kathleen have said, the issues of HIV are not singular but they are solvable. So many people have a stake in this fight to end HIV and move towards an HIV free generation in 2030 and yet the problems so many groups are facing can be helped through education. Solutions for solving the issues of stigma, access, knowledge, and awareness, all reference the necessity of educating people on HIV so that they can understand how to support and help themselves and others. It was clear at the conference that a lack of knowledge was holding so many people back from the care they need. As an organization we have made a commitment to help support people who are HIV positive and to help provide access to care along with support. The conference made it clear that we also have an obligation to educate and teach to spread awareness, involvement, and passion. We need to do more to educate ourselves and others on HIV/AIDS so that we can be a part of the push to help end the spread of HIV while providing care and support for those already living with HIV/AIDS.” – Leah Silver, Class of 2017