Doctors Rob Garofalo and Travis Gayles, Ann and Robert Lurie Children's Hospital

Doctors Rob Garofalo and Travis Gayles, Ann and Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital

The Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN) Chicago hosted an important science and treatment conference commemorating National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this month.

The three-day conference took place from Feb. 17 to 19 at the University Center in Chicago’s South Loop. Chicago House’s own Brandon Harrison and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s Anthony Galloway coordinated the effort, which explored the physiological effect of HIV/AIDS and its impact on Black communities across Chicago and Illinois.

After attending the African American HIV University, a 30-day intensive training held in Los Angeles by the Black AIDS Institute, both Harrison and Galloway returned to Chicago invigorated. Together, they convened this conference for people with experience in HIV social service, health care, community health and other related fields.

Where do we go from here? Keith Boykin, BET, NBC Universal & New York Times Bestseller, critically addressed this question in his keynote speech. Boykin, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, encouraged the audience to stand up to power. He noted the effects of larger institutions on the disproportionate impact HIV has had on the Black community, specifically pointing to racism, mass incarceration, police violence and poverty as major contributors to the epidemic in Black Chicago. Closing his vehement speech with a call to action, Boykin urged those on the front lines to continue the fight even as popular culture steers its focus away from HIV/AIDS.

Other speakers included, but were not limited to, Yaa Simpson, MPH, TACTS,Chair of BTAN Chicago, Gina Evans, MPH, Chicago Department of Public Health, Dr. Travis Gayles, MD/PhD, Ann and Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital and Chicago House Board of Trustees (pictured above), Damian Denson, PhD, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many others.

Sponsors of the event included the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Illinois Department of Public Health, BASUAH, Step Up. Get Tested, Trilogy Behavioral Health, Chicago House, BTAN Chicago, TACTS and Black AIDS Institute.