Advocates gather virtually for 28th annual AIDSWatch

The three day event started Monday with keynote from CDC’s Daskalakis

March 23, 2021
Contact: Warren Gill,
(202) 599-8259

WASHINGTON — The first day of AIDSWatch 2021 was held virtually Monday.

AIDSWatch is the largest constituent-based HIV advocacy event on the federal level. First started in 1993, AIDSWatch became a virtual event in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. A special edition of AIDSWatch was also held in Fall 2020, making AIDSWatch 2021 the third time the event has been hosted virtually.

John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and Rep. Barbara Lee, the co-chair of the Congressional HIV Caucus, helped to open AIDSWatch with special words of encouragement and greeting.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gave the keynote presentation on the current state of the HIV epidemic in the United States.

AIDSWatch 2021 is a three-day event. The second day will be filled with workshops to allow participants to dive more deeply into particular aspects of the epidemic. Participants will meet with more than 300 congressional offices on Wednesday, the final day of the conference.

AIDSWatch is a partnership between AIDS United, the US PLHIV Caucus and the Treatment Access Expansion Project.

Jesse Milan, president and CEO, AIDS United, said, “I thought I would feel different at this year’s AIDSWatch. There are so many signs of hope coming from the new presidential administration and new Congress. But my sense of hope is tempered by shock, fear and anger that white supremacy is trying to reduce our rights to vote, that the murders of Black, Asian and transgender people continue, that The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our work and lives perhaps for good. But whether this year, last year or 28 years ago at the first AIDSWatch, our reason for gathering remains the same: The federal government can and must do more to end the HIV epidemic in the United States.”

Ronald Johnson, chair of the steering committee of the US PLHIV Caucus, said, “AIDSWatch 2021 got off to a great start. By our presence, HIV advocates from across the country and Puerto Rico demonstrated our resiliency after a difficult year and our determination to be fully engaged in moving the federal response to HIV forward. People living with and affected by HIV know that ending the HIV epidemic and ensuring the health and well-being of all people living with HIV can only be achieved through a full commitment to racial and ethnic equity and social and economic justice for all people. That’s the message we are ready to take to Congress and the administration.”

Robert Greenwald, director of the Treatment Access Expansion Project/Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, said, “In the midst of a pandemic, a distressed economy, and a national reckoning on systemic racism, it was thrilling to see hundreds of people living with HIV and their allies come together for the first day of AIDSWatch 2021. This year, with a new administration and Congress, advocates from across our country are demanding support for the laws, policies and programs that will once and for all end the HIV epidemic. The message rang loud and clear today: The time is now to turn the promise of ending HIV in the United States to a reality.”

Carl Baloney, vice president and chief advocacy officer of AIDS United, said, “With this being our third virtual AIDSWatch because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m glad that people continue to invest their time and energy into ending the HIV epidemic. This AIDSWatch, more than half the people who registered are living with HIV. We also have strong racial and geographic representation, which goes to show the broad support for addressing inequities faced in HIV care, treatment and prevention. We have all of the tools necessary to end the HIV epidemic. What we lack is the political will to invest in those tools. And the only thing that can change that is advocacy from a broad coalition of communities.”

ABOUT AIDSWATCH: AIDSWatch is organized by AIDS United, the Treatment Access Expansion Project, and the US PLHIV Caucus. It is the largest federal HIV advocacy event of its kind. Participants are trained in effective advocacy skills and are coached on how best to share this information with policymakers and their community. After training, participants meet with members of Congress to share their personal stories about the impact of current policies on their community, highlight the importance of HIV as an issue for their constituents and present a face for the issue. Learn more at

ABOUT ORGANIZING PARTNER, AIDS UNITED: AIDS United’s mission is to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. through strategic grant-making, capacity building and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV-related policy for populations and communities most impacted by the U.S. epidemic. To date, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $104 million to local communities and have leveraged more than $117 million in additional investments for programs that include but are not limited to HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction and advocacy. Learn more at

ABOUT ORGANIZING PARTNER, THE TREATMENT ACCESS EXPANSION PROJECT: TAEP was founded in 1996 with the mission of working to expand access to health care to low-income individuals living with HIV. Since that time, TAEP’s work has expanded to encompass the health care access needs of all low-income individuals living with chronic illnesses and disabilities. In collaboration with national, state, and local partners, TAEP seeks to secure, preserve and promote access to a broad range of care, treatment and essential support services that are necessary to maintain health. Learn more at

ABOUT ORGANIZING PARTNER, THE US PLHIV CAUCUS: The caucus is a group of networks, organizations and advocates dedicated to the Denver Principles and the meaningful involvement of people with HIV/AIDS.  We seek to create a diverse and accountable culture of leadership and engagement at both state and national levels. Learn more at