A reflection on my time as Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellow at AIDS United

The Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellowship was a fantastic experience that allowed me to grow as an advocate for people living with HIV and to form connections with leading champions within the HIV advocacy community.

Before starting at AIDS United, I knew relatively little about the HIV epidemic in the United States. AIDS United granted me an inclusive environment to learn about HIV policy, best advocacy practices and the many acronyms in the HIV community.

Through the Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellowship, I became involved in the complex web of issues facing people living with HIV. The issues I worked on include racial justice, sex worker advocacy, molecular surveillance and drug pricing. Working on a variety of issues confirmed the importance of intersectional advocacy and brought to my attention the multiple challenges that communities living with or vulnerable to HIV deal with daily. That said, my time working with leading experts on these topics has also made it clear that an end to the epidemic is well within our grasp.

As the Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellow, I created the Hurricane Preparedness Project, a document that provides best practices for AIDS service organizations located in hurricane-prone areas of the United States. This project gave me the opportunity to interact with organizations working on the front lines of both the HIV epidemic and natural disaster response. I am from Miami, Florida, a notoriously hurricane-prone region of the United States, and I have a deep interest in working in the Caribbean. This project allowed me to explore my interests related to issues that impact my own communities and those which I wish to serve one day.

The Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellowship has given me the tools to continue my journey as an advocate for human rights and justice for people living with HIV. The position exposed me to the inner workings of Washington, D.C., and allowed me to have a front-row seat to advocacy on Capitol Hill, where I was able to meet with senior legislative staff and elected officials to talk about important steps needed in the fight to end HIV in the United States. I hope to build on these skills as I start my legal education at Harvard Law School next fall.

Lastly, as a Cuban American person, I am grateful to the Pedro Zamora Fellowship for allowing me to follow in the long tradition of Cuban American HIV advocates in the United States. I hope to carry on the legacy of Pedro Zamora long after I leave my position as the Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellow in both my professional and personal endeavors.

I am grateful to AIDS United for giving me a platform to begin my career in public policy and advocacy and hope to be working with the dedicated people at the organization for years to come.