GrandMa!: Reflections From The National HIV Prevention Conference 2011 (Atlanta, GA)

By Rashaan Lamar Nowell MDiv
Intervention Specialist

I was raised by my grandmother and she used to give me words of wisdom and advice. At the time I
thought she didn’t know what she was talking about. She would say things like “Don’t count your eggs
before they hatch.” Grandma’s wisdom seemed a little crazy at the time but as I grew older I began to
see that she knew exactly what she was talking about. Grandma also said “Watch who you lay with or
you might just come up with bugs.” That is Mind blowing advice for me today as I sit at this conference
on prevention.

Grandma also had a way of treatment when it came to me being sick. For ear infections she would use
some ointment and pour it in my ears, when I was stung by wasp she used snuff to get the stinger out.
When we had toothaches she would put whiskey on your gums to stop the pain.

The point is Grandma Cared and because she cared, I was able to allow her to give advice and provide
treatment for my ailments. I say this to say during today’s plenary session there was a debate about
what was most important “care” or “treatment?” It was all summed up at e end by one of the
facilitator’s , He stated “the question shouldn’t be which is better, but the question should be how do
we fuse them together?”

Sometimes we get so caught up in telling people what they should do that we forget to show them we
care. I agree with the facilitator you can’t have one without the other. Doctors try to get patients in and
out but they forget that each individual is different and should be handled as such. The same goes in
the field of prevention, people are more likely to allow us to treat them if they know that we care and
they aren’t just a number. With the number of people who are infected we need them to understand
the importance of adhering to their medications and not become sporadic med users because that may
cause a negative turnover in their treatment.

In this work we need to get back to the basics, learning to add that little flair that grandma had. Show
people that we care and we are in this together. Lend a kind word of advice, share some wisdom and
encourage those who are infected and affected by HIV. Let them know that they aren’t just a number
but we are a family and it is our job to take care and love one another. Grandma’s ways may have
seemed unconventional at the time but they sure worked. Let’s take advice from Grandma and do the

The 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference was held August 14-17 in Atlanta at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the Marriott Marquis hotels. The conference organizers are committed to ensuring that this conference contributes to achieving the three primary goals defined in that plan that include reducing the number of people who become infected with HIV, Increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV and, Reducing HIV-related health disparities.