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Howard University: International Conference on Stigma Focus Set for November 14-17

Stigma Conference

WASHINGTON – Howard University’s 14th Annual International Conference on Stigma returns to campus on November 14-17, 2023, as a hybrid event. The conference will address the impact of stigma around various issues, including HIV, reentry from life in prison, food insecurity and other intersecting health-related issues. 

“The stigma associated with health conditions is a major problem and impedes treatment and prevention efforts,” said Sohail Rana, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the Howard University College of Medicine and conference director. This year's theme is “My Story- Who Can I Tell? Disclosure…Harm…Healing.”

Virtual sessions will take place November 14-16 and a main session will be held at the Armour J. Blackburn Center on Friday, November 17. Webcasts for most events, including the Novebmer 17 date will also be available. Registration information and a complete conference agenda can be found at www.whocanyoutell.org.

The International Conference on Stigma originated with focus on HIV-related issues but has grown as a major global platform to talk about various forms of stigma. Each year, the conference brings together researchers, educators, policymakers, activists, faith leaders, youth, workgroups, and community leaders to discuss strategies to overcome stigma. This year’s range of topics include open discussion on sharing of diagnosis, health equity, and internalized stigma.

In addition, a virtual town hall will address “HIV- The Good the Bad and the Ugly: What Works and What Doesn’t Work? Stigma of HIV, mental health, sickle cell disease, facial disfigurement, substance use, and other health-related stigma will be addressed.

Notable Speakers include:

  • Keynote: Mardrequs Harris, MAEd, deputy director, Southern AIDS Coalition will speak on “Transforming the South: Addressing Stigma and Its Impacts on HIV in the US South.”
  • Rana Family Speaker Series for Social Justice in Health Speaker: Rupa Valdez, Ph.D., associate professor of systems and information engineering, public health sciences, and global studies at the University of Virginia will speak on Nourishing Communities: Dismantling Systems of Food Injustice.”
  • Additional speakers include: Researcher Tamra Burns Loeb, Ph.D, adjunct associate professor, UCLA, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences; scientific abstract winner Ikenna Nwakamma of Nigeria; HIV advocate Larry Bryant of the Reunion Project; and sickle cell warrior Davon Bryant. Howard University professor of sociology and criminology Arvilla Payne-Jackson, Ph.D., will lead two panels: a Friday panel of returning citizens, addressing post incarceration stigma and a virtual session on the Tuskegee and Holmesburg Prison experiments.

In addition to the speakers, this year’s International Conference on Stigma will feature personal video clips from community members who share their stigma stories. Raffle prizes will be given throughout the conference, and individuals who have been working diligently to eliminate stigma will be recognized and awarded. There will be multiple networking opportunities with support for next-generation researchers and advocates working to combat stigma. Stigma-focused artwork will be presented with prizes for the top submissions.

This year’s entertainment features saxophonist Brian Lenair, vocals from Howard University music students, and a Native American vocal and dance performance by Shawn Ironmaker (“sits with eagle”), member of the White Clay People and general manager of Buffalo Horse Incorporated; and Peter Brooks, member of the Piscataway, teaching artist with the Maryland State Arts Council, and grandson of Cab Calloway.

“To address stigma, love and community are the cure,” Rana says. “Most people with stigmatized illnesses like HIV have suffered layers and layers of trauma. Today, addressing different forms of stigma involves providing people opportunities to tell their stories without facing rejection.”

Conference sponsors include Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare. Other significant sponsors include Research Data and Communication Technologies, Denver Prevention and Training Center, AIDS United, HTPN096 (fhi360), Ribbon and NASTAD. Major collaborators include media partner HealthHIV, Howard University School of Social Work, and the Mid-Atlantic AIDS Education and Training Center (Howard University Regional Site).


About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced two Schwarzman Scholars, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.

Media contact: Sholnn Freeman; sholnn.freeman@howard.edu