Ever since my first meeting in 2009, my favorite aspect of the Annual Meeting has been the scientific sessions. It is a really great opportunity to keep track of emerging research and developments in your area of interest, meet other public health scientists and advocates (and potential collaborators), and get exposures to new ideas and approaches to public health issues.
HIV Prevention with an emphasis on PrEP
My first session of the day was International Issues in HIV Prevention, which featured presentations on PrEP and PEP access in Japan, elevated HIV risk among MSM in China, conception and family planning among HIV-positive women in South Africa, and the intersection of conflict, substance abuse, and HIV risk. (Basically, it had just about everything that interests me – HIV, human rights, refugee issues, and East Asia.) I was particularly pleased to have the chance to chat with the speaker who presented his work on PrEP and PEP in Japan, as I imagine that many of the same sociopolitical and cultural barriers to effective HIV prevention programs in Korea also affect Japan. I am hoping that his work will help to inform mine, and he took great interest in my work once he figured out that I was the person behind the late-breaker that his section had endorsed and was following very closely (he is a Governing Councilor for the HIV/AIDS Section).
After that, I dashed over to Chinatown to replace my phone at the T-Mobile store after the screen on my faithful Galaxy S3 bit the dust when I dropped my phone at a Spanish tapas bar last night, and to grab lunch. When you are the Communications Committee Chair, being without a phone (and unable to access social media and a phone camera at a moment’s notice) simply will not fly…and if the nearest T-Mobile store is in Chinatown, it seems only logical to get lunch in the neighborhood.
I made my way to the second PrEP session of the conference with my new phone in hand and had a chance to listen to presentations on provider perspective and challenges in prescribing PrEP and helping their clients get access to it, as well as studies on awareness and attitudes toward PrEP among high-risk groups, particularly MSM. PrEP is obviously a hot topic in HIV prevention and has unique implications public health in the US vs. globally (as approaches to approval, coverage, and provision will differ by country and depend how well a given health care system functions), and these presentations will be informative to my day job.
Policy Victories do Ninjas Make, so I Bought a T-shirt
After meeting a very nice red panda, whom I noticed on Twitter earlier in the day and who happened to be in the PrEP session at the same time, I had another shift at the IH Booth. It was there that, to my delight, one of our Governing Councilors e-mailed me to let me know that our late-breaker opposing mandatory HIV tests for foreign nationals passed with overwhelming support. Naturally I was thrilled, but unfortunately I was only halfway through my shift at the booth, so I resisted the urge to do my victory dance in the Expo (and potentially scare off interested members). After finishing my shift, however, I decided that getting a late-breaker resolution passed qualified me as a Public Health Ninja, so I treated myself to a t-shirt identifying me as exactly that.
Afterwards, I headed to International Perspectives on Healthcare Administration, mainly to listen to the two presentations on research done on South Korea’s healthcare system.
Section Awards Dinner: Putting Faces to Names
The highlight of the day, of course, was the IH Section Awards Dinner and Social. This was a nice chance for me to unwind a bit, chat with other Section members (including some, like the chairs of the Global Health Connections and Student Committees, whom I had only spoken to by phone until now), and enjoy Gopal Sankaran’s great emcee skills and Paul Freeman’s delightfully Australian sense of humor. We had fantastic turnout even despite having the same time slot as the social for the Global Health Fellows Program.
My own Annual Meeting magnus opus is yet to come, however. Tomorrow morning I present my abstract on Mandatory HIV Testing for Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Korea: Human Rights Violations and Bad Public Health Policy. Stay tuned!