by Eddie Gonzalez

Every year, the annual United States Conference on AIDS has it’s empowerment theme they want to bring to light, and this year’s event, 2018, is no difference. The Opening Plenary brought powerful key speakers and leaders that endeavor to help make a difference.

Social justice leaders and advocates brought forth the need for racial health equity, fight against racism, gin violence.

Larry Kramer, the well-known playwright and persistent activist, writer of the famous, “The Normal Heart”, shared what it means to be over 50 and living with HIV through a strong message via a video. He spoke the truth, leaving the attendees in tears, but remaining proud of this amazing advocate.

Richard Zaldivar, founder of The Wall Las Memorias Project, shared his input on constructing the only publicly funded AIDS Monument in the Nation. He brought the immigration issue, and family separation to the plenary advocating to fight for justice.

Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, Abigail Ech-Hawk, shared tearful moments on how her people had not only lost their voice, but their name as well. She held her head high as she told the truth on the indigenous and how this land once belonged to them.


The youngest speaker of the day was David Hogg, survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. He shared the horrific experience, and the loss of friends due to a crime that could have been avoided. He became an activist to battle against gun violence; he is certain this can end suffering due to these heinous acts of brutality.

#blacklivesmatter, and yes it does. Co-Founder, Alicia Garza, of this movement closed the plenary speech with powerful and empowering messages, helping to better understand the reason as to why Black Lives Matter is more than just a hashtag. It is the voice to end the hate and racism, and end any acts of violence and oppression. This type of ideology can help any race, gender, belief, and sexuality.
The highlight of the Plenary was very inspirational and motivational, and fed many advocates the power to keep fighting to end the HIV epidemic. We even were gifted with the talented Thelma Houston to close the session with her beautiful voice.