Started the first official day at the International Aids Conference at the inhuman hour of 6:30 A.M., one of many hours that should simply be removed from the clock entirely, and from here on out put your running shoes on, drink that Gatorade, and start moving because it’s going to be a marathon. First thing in the morning was participation in the Hispanic Advisory Group. Received advice on how to be Hispanic. Just kidding. Actually, conferred about the range of activities engaged in by the Hispanic Advisory Group, which is a body of representatives across a wide range of non-profits, academic institutions, government, and other organizations that is dedicated to ensuring there is cultural competence with regards to and due attention to the needs of Hispanics in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
This is a historic time for Latinos in America, as we become an increasingly significant segment of the population demographically, politically, and culturally. As we move away from the stereotypical images of sombreros, tacos, salsa, and Speedy Gonzalez, and as the diversity of Latino-Americans continues to emerge, but also integrate, as firmly established in its robust cultural heritage, gastronomy, and the psyche of the public as Italian food and culture in all that such melting into the melting pot in this nation means – appreciated as a rich addition to the American soup, mocked with good-natured familiarity and no trace of ethnocentricism, enjoyed as partners and fellow Americans deeply engrained in all communities, a welcome addition. This is the future we envision.
As we prepare today for the Latino/Hispanic Research Forum, I am deeply proud of the advances we have made, the obstacles we have surmounted, and our steadfast course into the future, but we must routinely assess our communities, and understand how we can best take advantage of innovations and biomedical advances. Society is not static, and we must move forward in concert with it continuously.
Many find this conference particularly overwhelming, but we recommend taking it one step at a time. Breathe in. Breathe out. Right foot. Left foot. Pause to drink coffee. Pause for a cocktail. And go forth, one session at a time, one reception at a time, one business card at a time. Remember, we here at the Commission are old pros at conference navigation, and we are here to support you. Come visit our booths and say hello. While we can’t offer relaxing massages or a nice refreshing mojito, you certainly have a friend in us. Drop by and say hello. Maybe we’ll grab drinks later.
And for those other veterans of the conference circuit don’t forget that there are often less experienced co-workers and representatives of other organizations that represent the next generation of leaders in the ongoing battle against. Take the time to help them out, guide them – think of it as “commando mentoring”. This is a relay. Don’t forget to pass the baton.
By Miriam Y. Vega, PhD