My experience at the FACE AIDS conference at Stanford University this past February was transformative. FACE AIDS is a student organization that empowers young people in the U.S., Rwanda, and around the world to take action in their schools and communities to fight HIV/AIDS. The Northeastern chapter of FACE AIDS is a brand new student organization trying to figure out the intended goal: from how to fundraise and what type of fundraising activities we should do to how we want to approach educating students on campus about HIV/AIDS issues. The conference was the answer to all our uncertainties.
We heard from speakers who do cost-effective analysis for HIV treatment, who run small non-profits like Peer Health Exchange, and who direct clinics that serve poor women in San Francisco living with HIV and AIDS. We also participated in breakout sessions to discuss fundraising techniques, which introduced us to the idea of Condom Couture, a fashion show of dresses made from condoms to raise awareness and funds for Partners in Health’s community health worker program. We decided to hold our own Condom Couture fashion show, which was a success and rose over $1,000 for the Rwandan community health worker program. Perhaps the most inspiring event of the conference was the call to activism. The entire room of 100 plus attendees picked up our phones and dialed our local representative to express our support of not cutting PEPFAR funding. As a graduating senior, I was able to meet the people whose positions I would want to hold one day; that was enough to inspire me to pursue career channels I normally wouldn’t have previously had the confidence to seek.