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When we first attended the United States Conference on HIV/AIDS in 2004, and provided a booth, we did so at the insistence of a friend and collaborator in Knoxville, Dr. Al Ichiki. Dr Al, now deceased, was an early supporter in the Knoxville HIV community, a Christian, and he had discovered that despite being a Baptist Church organization, Samaritan Ministry was not an enemy to the LGBTQ community. At our first conference we were asked many questions, including… “What kind of Baptist are you?” and “Does your Pastor know you are here?”. Initially we were met with suspicion… indeed, why would a Baptist Church come to USCHA if it wasn’t to do harm?

We quickly established ourselves as a unique conference partner, advocating for those members of our community who are often voiceless and vulnerable, stigmatized, and ostracized, marginalized and demonized, sick and suffering, left out and outcast, hurting and alone. We became, and still are, the presence of Christ at this conference. We are seen as a friend and a safe place. Since that first conference, 20 years ago, we remain the only exhibitor that represents the faith community.

And, each year we choose a topic to present as our 4 question “Booth Quiz”, always something cutting edge, as a way of increasing knowledge about HIV in the face of our changing times. Everyone knows about our Quiz.

We come prepared to distribute nearly 100 paperback “Here’s Hope” New Testaments. Some of our booth visitors are not familiar with the Bible at all and we always enjoy this opportunity to share.

Each year we talk to old friends who come by to check in and say hello, we meet new friends, who often are a little amazed to see a Baptist church in the middle of this conference. We share surprise, spread joy, and listen to heartfelt stories of rejection from church and family.

Why do we exhibit at USCHA?

  • We live out our mission at this conference: “Our church should be a beacon of light and hope, by way of Christ, to anyone who suffers from or has family or friends who suffer from HIV”.
  • We engage with leaders in HIV research, prevention, and advocacy.
  • We provide materials for Christian leaders to use that advocate for love and care in the face of ongoing stigma and homophobia.
  • We offer hope and love to those we meet at our booth.
  • We are usually the only faith organization of any kind represented in the exhibit hall.
  • We promote a pro-active approach, our “Samaritan Model”, to encourage church leaders to become engaged.
  • We teach about the confluence of the epidemics of HIV, Hepatitis C, and the opioid crisis. This is a Syndemic.
  • And we support the NMAC mission: “NMAC leads with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America.”