Learning about Africa, Looking for Answers for Mississippi: One Advocate’s CROI perspective

February 27, 2015

Cedric Sturdevant is the co-chair for BTAN Jackson in Jackson, Miss. and has worked in the field of HIV prevention for seven years. Over the past five years, Cedric has worked at My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. and gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in HIV/AIDS, STDs and health-related matters.

In addition to the CROI Community Educator Scholarship Program, AVAC and the Black AIDS Institute—with support from the CROI Community Liaison Subcommittee—are supporting a pilot program that provides an opportunity for additional community reps to attend the meeting. Delegates are mentored and supported with supplemental programming to help translate big science into accessible language for our communities. Cedric Sturdevant is a participant in this program.

My feeling at CROI so far has been mixed. There is great information being giving, at such a fast pace that it makes me dizzy. I know we will have access to the information afterward but most of the studies being talked about are all in Africa. I know HIV infection is heavy there but I’m interested in knowing what we can do to get more people living in the US get more involved in these trials.

In my state, Mississippi, more education is desperately needed about the advancements being made around the epidemic. I know we are 30-plus years into the epidemic but Mississippians are still behind on the science of HIV. That could be a result of other issues we have within our state like housing, lack of access to health care and retention in care. When I return to Mississippi from CROI I’m going to meet with My Brother’s Keeper’s (MBK) HIV Prevention Programs Manager and BTAN member to come up with a plan to get this information out to the community and professional people working in the field.

My goal is to use the information I’ve gathered, especially around PrEP, PEP and TasP, and incorporate it into the already planned BTAN training, find some funding and travel across the state doing workshop. Personally, my goal is to do a learning session with MBK’s Empowerment Support Group, MBK’s staff, Open Arms Healthcare Center and BTAN Mississippi members. Getting this information out is not something I cannot do alone; it will take all of us working together to make a change in Mississippi.

The biggest thing thus far for me is learning the different ways PrEP can be used. I plan to read more about some of the trials they have on PrEP especially the on-demand PrEP.