Pointing to the District's dubious distinction as the nation's locality with the highest HIV-infection rate, several organizations are offering a town-hall meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Unity Fellowship Church. And though prominent panelists have been invited to speak, they may not do most of the talking.
Instead, organizers of the event, which include Brian Watson of Transgender Health Empowerment (THE), are allowing for greater input from audience members, including questions, concerns and suggestions on how to affectively combat HIV/AIDS in the District.
''We had a town hall meeting in 2006 and a lot of information came from the panelists. But when it came to the Q-and-A portion, the community didn't really get to say too much,'' Watson says. ''This year we want to make sure there's ample time for the community to give feedback.... What we really want is more dialogue.''
The panelists invited to initiate dialogue about new strategies in fighting HIV/AIDS include Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1); local activist Cornelius Baker; and Rev. Dennis Wiley, a pastor at Covenant Baptist Church.
In addition to THE, the event is co-sponsored by Us Helping Us, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C. Black Pride, Metro TeenAIDS and the D.C. Coalition.
''Maybe it's time to go back to grassroots,'' Watson adds. ''Having the event in a church, we wanted to give the meeting some of that feel, some of that momentum that was alive during the Civil Rights era. As we try to combat HIV now in 2008, maybe we need to look at some of the things we did in the past during the Civil Rights Movement that gained momentum and mobilized the community.''
HIV in the District: This Is Not the Dream, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 15 at Unity Fellowship Church, 1226 Vermont Ave. NW (Luther Place Memorial Church). For more information call 202-636-1646.