A reflection on the 2016 NCSD Annual Meeting
I started as a Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS), a role that taught me that we could have a positive impact on each individual in the communities we serve. This included educating them on the importance of testing and treatment of their recent diagnosis in order to prevent spreading it to others. In 2007 my role changed to Colorado’s Statewide Linkage to Care Coordinator (LTCC), a program dedicated to helping people with HIV get engaged in care.
As frontline staff, we often provide individual client- level services and don’t readily see the downstream impact of our work or how it fits into the big picture. Earlier this year, I had the honor to go through NCSD’s Policy Academy. Our team of seven from Colorado had the opportunity to meet colleagues from other states during the in-session meeting in Washington DC. After the training, we had the chance to go to the “Hill” in order to educate our House and Senate representatives. We shared with them the effects of STIs on our individual communities as well as the prevention strategies we each had in place.
At the Academy, I heard about a great annual meeting hosted by NCSD to be presented in Phoenix, AZ in November. My upper management approved my attendance, granting me the pleasure of attending NCSD’s 2016 Annual Meeting for the first time.
During registration, friendly NCSD Staff welcomed me with a smile. I noticed each participant’s badge had ribbons under them. The ribbons were in recognition of those who were First Time attendees, DIS, Policy Academy graduates, Staff, Board of Directors, and Speakers. Later, these ribbons became icebreakers for networking, creating an opportunity to dialogue with other attendees.
The Wigwam Resort hosted the meeting and offered a variety of settings for the different sessions. Attendees had the option to choose from concurrent sessions as well as Special Interest Meetings and Focus Groups. The main conference space was ideal. The spacious break areas had several chimneys offering room to connect with others or an opportunity to rest and have a quiet space during breaks.
Each of the sessions offered by NCSD provided us with valuable information. While times are not easy and resources are plummeting as STIs are on the rise, I found that colleagues around the nation show pride in their work. Presenters from different states shared their innovative projects on how they are combating STIs. This included myself and each (of five) of my colleagues from Colorado, a great honor to me.
My take away lessons are too many to mention, but include NCSD’s information on important policy changes, political successes and challenges, as well as the uncertainty of the future landscape for STI funding. Attending this meeting provided a Safe Zone to ask difficult questions about our future. The resources and networking opportunities I experienced were invaluable for my career. Attending this meeting left me feeling energized, excited and proud of our public health role. I hope this is the first of many NCSD meetings I have the opportunity to attend.