**For Immediate Release**
Contact: Jennie Smith-Camejo, firstname.lastname@example.org, 347.553.5174
September 8, 2017: Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) is proud to announce that we will be celebrating our first decade of sisterhood, solidarity and action by hosting our third National Leadership Summit, which will take place April 12-15, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Building on past years of success and responding to the current political moment, SPEAK UP! 2018: A National Leadership Summit for Women will be designed to provide political education, leadership skills, policy advocacy, and voter engagement training to up to 350 women, including women of trans experience, living with HIV.
Previous PWN-USA SPEAK UP! Summits, held in Florida in 2014 and 2016, were a tremendous success, training hundreds of advocates from the communities most directly impacted by the epidemic. The Summits have spurred the formation of statewide networks led by women living with HIV (WLHIV); multiple state-level HIV decriminalization campaigns; gender-responsive advocacy and programming; and the launch of an anti-racism working group within PWN.
According to PWN-USA Board Chair Barb Cardell, an advocate who has been living with HIV since 1991, “Rarely can women living with HIV come together to meet others from across the US. But the Summit builds powerful connections of friendship and sisterhood. We often feel we must live in silence, facing real fears of stigma and discrimination, loss of jobs, family shame, social judgment, custody concerns, and even laws criminalizing our sexual and reproductive lives. For women with so much loss, silence and shame, SPEAK UP! is a dream come true. And for WLHIV who have been working on the frontlines, leading organizations, and at the forefront of the HIV empowerment movement, SPEAK UP! provides a powerful opportunity to recharge and reconnect, to step back and think creatively about new programs and solutions in a supportive space committed to honoring their whole beings. Thus the Summit not only provides support and connection, it builds power in an often disenfranchised group. We train women to engage on their local, state, national and even a global stage. Together, we dissect policy, language, and barriers that impact our lives. And collectively, we strategize, sharing our pain, our stories of victory and a growing sense of empowerment, as we leave charged up and ready to change the world.”
Next year’s SPEAK UP! Summit will:
- Increase policy analysis and advocacy capacity on timely and strategic issues among women, including women of trans experience, living with HIV;
- Inspire our base and enhance our resilience by honoring our victories, examining our successes, and strengthening our relationships;
- Prepare our constituency to effectively engage in issue-based and electoral campaigns in 2018 and beyond; and
- Advance the field’s commitment to intersectionality and racial and gender justice through political education.
Pat Kelly of Orangeburg, South Carolina, organizer of the Summit’s local host committee said, “We are thrilled to welcome the participants of SPEAK UP! 2018 to our beautiful state. And it is so important for women living with HIV in South Carolina to directly experience the skills-building tools, power and leadership of other women across the nation. We are actively working to change unjust HIV laws in our state, and look forward to this Summit as an opportunity to help galvanize our local communities into action.”
SPEAK UP! 2018 will build upon the special focus of the 2016 Summit on young women and women of trans experience living with HIV, where both groups held daylong pre-Summit institutes, and where significant content focused on exploring issues facing these marginalized populations.
“Speak Up! 2016 taught me that I have true allies in [cisgender] women. Together at that conference what was shown to me was true love, true belonging and sisterhood. Including me made–makes–me feel hope,” said Jada Cardona of New Orleans, Louisiana, founder of Transitions Louisiana and a steering committee member of Positively Trans.
2018 is a special year for PWN-USA, as the tenth year since we were founded in 2008 by a group of 28 diverse women living with HIV. In that decade, we have grown from 28 to over 3000 members, leading campaigns to change laws and policies in multiple states and cities. SPEAK UP! 2018 will be a celebration of the progress we have made together over the past ten years and a preview of the resistance–and progress–we intend to make together over the next ten years.