Where the Revolution Continues: Inside the Second Annual Body Love Conference

A speaker at the 2014 Body Love Conference. Photo: Body Love Conference

A speaker at the 2014 Body Love Conference. Photo: Body Love Conference

The Body Love Conference debuted last year, riding on Tucsonan Jes Baker’s breakthrough success in body-positive blogging. Baker’s dating woes — and how they affected the way she saw herself in the mirror — sent her on a personal journey of body acceptance. Before long, the personal became political as she launched a blog called The Militant Baker, a place where could share with others what she had learned on her own journey. The Militant Baker soon reached a readership of about 20,000 — and then nearly a million as some of her content went viral.


We are maligned for wanting control over our bodies.


But Baker, along with a team of like-minded advocates and volunteers, knew that the movement needed something else as well: a safe but more public space for seeing, feeling, and asserting body love, where empowering words could translate into empowering actions. The Body Love Conference was their brainchild, and their months of preparation to make it happen paid off on April 5, 2014, with an event that drew more than 400 people.

The momentum continued this year with the second annual Body Love Conference, held at the Pima Community College West Campus on June 6. The message was the same, but a lot of things were different this year. Baker passed the torch to the other BLC volunteers so that she could turn her attention to her first book, slated for release on October 27. Meanwhile, the BLC team decided on a smaller, regional conference, so that they, too, could focus on something further out: a national “headliner” conference in 2016. Continue reading

Honoring Life: Arizonans Observe National Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Tuesday, March 20, 2012, is National Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD). Started in 2007, NNHAAD is focused on promoting HIV education, prevention, and testing among Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, a former professor at the University of Arizona who is now director of Indian Health Service, has called NNHAAD a day to “celebrate our successes and plan how to best continue working in partnership to address HIV and AIDS among Native people.”


On March 16, Arizona State University will observe Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with speakers, information, and free HIV testing.


Although HIV affects every segment of society in the United States, Native Americans and Alaska Natives are disproportionately affected, ranking third, after black and Latina/Latino Americans, in the rate of HIV/AIDS diagnosis. Even as high as it is, the documented rate of diagnosis most likely understates the actual rate of HIV among Native Americans and Alaska Natives. This is due to racial misidentification in collected data and poor data reporting between state and federal agencies and the Indian Health Service (IHS). Further deflating the rate of diagnosis is the concern among people from smaller Native communities about anonymity during testing and confidentiality after diagnosis. Those concerns and the stigma associated with HIV lead to a reluctance to get tested, which delays or precludes diagnosis.

To understand the high rate of HIV, it helps to look at risk factors that uniquely affect Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Dr. Anthony Dekker of the Phoenix Indian Medical Center, interviewed for the newspaper Indian Life, commented that Native American patients “have very high rates of … sexually transmitted diseases … We also know that there is a very high rate of alcohol and [substance abuse] in the American Indian/Alaska Native population. There are many reasons for that, but what happens is that when you take a population that has had high rates of substance abuse and high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, [that population] also has high rates of HIV.” A high rate of substance abuse is associated with a high rate of HIV and other STIs, since impairment can lead to risky sexual behavior, such as poorer negotiation of condom use. Continue reading