Thursday, October 20, 2011

David Furnish Speaking in Chicago AIDS Conference

Chicago is gearing up to host the country's largest AIDS conference, bound for the city on Nov. 10. The U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) will make its first appearance in the city as it celebrates its 15th year running.

"We are really eager to share with other folks what we are doing," said Cynthia Tucker, chair of the host committee on behalf of AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC).

Sponsored by the National Minority AIDS Council and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year's conference will be themed "Make Change Real: Unite. Speak. Act." The theme will focus on men who have sex with men.

Tucker believes the conference is a rare opportunity for Chicago-based service providers to show off their efforts in combating the virus.

The city will get to showcase its Service Providers Council, which convenes local HIV/AIDS organizations. That coalition allows local service organizations to better track the spread of the HIV without doubling up services.

"We are a really well-organized wheel here in Chicago," Tucker said. "We always merge to work in collaboration and that's different than some other states."

Despite stiff competition for dwindling funds, Chicago groups have been able to support each other through the Council, Tucker said.

The host committee, comprised of 127 local service providers, will be showcasing local organizations in two separate receptions. Center on Halsted will host the first on Nov. 12, while the second will feature both CALOR and Vida/SIDA at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center later that evening.

The conference itself will be held downtown at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.

The 3-day event is expected to exceed attendance of past years, Tucker said. The event could draw as many as 4,000 people. It will also bring in an estimated 150 vendors and feature workshops on drug use, domestic violence, transgender health and HIV prevention in communities of color.

Speakers will include CNN anchor Don Lemon, Office of National AIDS Policy Director Jeffrey Crowley, Elton John AIDS Foundation Chairman David Furnish, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, and Dr. Mary Wakefield from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

A special memorial will be held on Nov. 11 at St. James Temple in North Chicago to commemorate those who have died of AIDS-related illnesses and providers who fought against the virus.

Tucker said that Chicago service providers have invited politicians from all over the state to the conference in hopes that they will show their support for the fight against AIDS by attending.

A pre-conference institute will be held on Nov. 9. That institute is free.

- Windy City Media Group

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