Watching AIDSWatch Change Lives

By Joe Drungil on May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

bernadette-webBy Bernadette Carriere
Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellow, AIDS United

I didn’t know what to expect from AIDSWatch as a participant, but as an employee I realized early in my fellowship that it involved a lot of work. As a Pedro Zamora fellow working in the office of AIDS United, I saw firsthand the preparation that went into organizing this event. I answered some of the calls from scholarship participants and I got to witness the excitement in the office as the dates of AIDSWatch slowly approached. From the time I started my fellowship in late January, staff was already working diligently to plan fine details. So when the time finally arrived, I was hopeful that this event would be as successful as anticipated.

On Monday when I arrived at the training site, I was glad to see all of the participants excited and energized as they entered the conference space. They were eager to see old friends and meet new ones as I witnessed many hugs and handshakes being passed around the room. When the speakers began, they were equally enthused as they engaged participants on the epidemic, immediate needs and concerns, and our progress moving forward. As I sat in the room, I couldn’t help but get emotional as I thought about my aunt who passed away from complications related to AIDS.

It was not long ago that I had to witness one of the women who meant so much to me, fight for her life. She wanted to live… I got emotional because I was in a room surrounded by people I didn’t know, but I felt a sense of camaraderie. I knew my aunt would have loved to see so many people rally in one space to mobilize around an issue that affected her not only physically, but mentally. I envisioned her going around the room walking with her head held high because she would see that she was not in this fight alone. She and I, as a family, could have been in that room championing for this cause while representing so many people from our community. The selfish part of me shed a tear because I missed her, but I smiled as I realized that it is through her that I am able to live my life working on an issue that impacts the lives of so many.

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