Monday, June 2, 2008

Day 1 and Day 2

I finished my fourth day at AIDS Alliance today but I hadn't even had a chance to talk about my first few days on the job, which I enjoyed immensely, even though some moments were boring, confusing, and awkward. I have to admit, the first day was somewhat of a letdown, even though I suspect the "required reading" is necessary for the start of any internship. I read many documents prepared by AIDS Alliance and by similar groups, especially about Ryan White CARE Act. I felt ill-prepared when Max asked me several times if I knew what various parts of the Ryan White act were about and I had to laugh nervously and tell him no. It made me wish that I had gotten an internship with international HIV/AIDS policy instead of domestic policy. At least I knew something about PEPFAR from my MC 231 project. I also hadn't used Outlook before, which made me seem even stupider. But I tried to put that thought out of my head. And so I spent the day reading things on the computer. It was frustrating because even though I read the Ryan White policy and even read analysis of it, I still didn't have a grasp of what it actually meant in practice, how proposed changes in the reauthorization would affect the AIDS Alliance constituency. much of which I didn't understand.

But speaking of other internships, I immediately noticed some familiar non-profits. They were other internships I had applied to unsuccessfully: SIECUS and AIDS Action, and Center for Health and Gender Equity, whose internship position had already been filled by the time I expressed interest in it. On the one hand, this reminded me uncomfortably of being rejected by them, but I also realized that the difference between any of these organziations is also probably less than I thought it would be. At least, I hope that my internship here isn't any worse and just as much a learning process as interning at those other places.

The second day of my internship was unexpectedly better than the first. At first I expected to be in the office again and also without Max, which left me feeling a little panicky since I wasn't feeling comfortable with the AIDS Alliance projects yet. I had just begun to read my emails when Tyhese transferred a call to my phone (I have my own phone and extension number!) and told me to pick it up. Max was at meeting and wanted me to come. To do this, I had to get there by taking the Metro to Union Station and finding the address Max gave me. I was relieved to get out of the office and excited to navigate DC.

I was very glad to have gone to the FAPP meeting because it showed me the coalition that AIDS Alliance was a part of, as well as introduce me to some of the current issues HIV/AIDS advocacy groups are working on. FAPP stands for ?? Initially, I had my doubts of the effectiveness of the organization after I saw that there were so few staff but this meeting showed me that so much of advocacy work is done in coalitions, so that no organization works on its own. Committees made up of members of various organizations gave updates of their work, most of which I didn't understand, but it nonetheless showed me how these groups do work together to advance policy. Among the representatives at the meeting were NASTAD, SIECUS, and multicultural HIV/AIDS groups, which I was happy to see.

This meeting was a discussion of policies and lobbying strategies. It was the first time that I had though of lobbying strategies. There is a systematic and detailed way in which advocacy groups ... advocate. We discussed forming coalitions for some issue. There was mention of drafting a national HIV/AIDS plan to be presented to the next president. PEPFAR requires foreign beneficiary countries to have such a plan, though domestically we don't have one. This would lay out specific goals and plans for combating HIV/AIDS in the US.

As a special bonus, the meeting ended more than an hour earlier than it was schedule to. Max wasn't going back to the office because his partner was visiting DC, which meant that I didn't have to go back either. Max and I took the red line together, which was slightly awkward because we had to talk about non-work topics briefly. I was going to Dupont Circle to meet Nada and he was going to the Air and Space Museum because his partner wanted to go there.

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