HealtheVoices: Connecting online health bloggers and advocates
Disclaimer: Jannsen covered my expenses (travel, hotel, and food) to attend the conference this weekend but all views in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of Jannsen or any related organization/company.
I was honored this weekend to be invited to attend a conference hosted by Jannsen and Everyday Health in Jersey City, NJ which brought together a group of online health advocates and bloggers such as myself. This is the first time something like this has been attempted for the health blogging community. We represented a wide range of diseases and illnesses from all walks of life and from all across the country. For me this was such a huge opportunity and a chance to not only meet other advocates but to learn so much and grow not only personally but also as HIV advocate.
The weekend was filled with presenters sharing tips and advise that for us as bloggers we are able to take and use in our own works. But… even more importantly for me at least, it was a chance to openly talk about my HIV in a environment where I was not going to be judged. To me this is huge because I have never been really comfortable talking openly and face to face about my disease, so this forced me out of my bubble.
There were so many powerful stories that we all shared this weekend and connections/bonds that were made that I hope will last for a very long time to come. It is going to take me awhile to think about and process all of the information that I took in this weekend. Even as I sit here now writing, I am trying to process it all and remember some of the tips I learned so that I can help make my blog better for you, the readers.
I think one of the big things I want to take away from this weekend and pass on to everyone else is this… Every one of us that attended this conference has a chronic illness, but none of us were letting that illness define us. You could look across the room at any time and all you would see is normal everyday people just in a meeting and having a good time together. I think the point I am trying to make with this is that just because someone may have a disease, they are not that disease and you can not tell by looking at someone what they are going trough in life. On a comical note, it was funny to look around and most of us were glued to our phones, tablets, and laptops a lot of the time. But that has to be expected when you get a group of people together who all use Social Media pretty much all the time.
Every one of us that were there handle our illnesses differently and in the way that works for us, but we all did have one thing in common. We all shared the desire to not only share our stories, but reach out and help others who may be going through similar situations such as ours.
I got to meet some other great HIV Advocates this weekend, some of whom I have talked with and read their works for a while now. This was a great chance for us to get together, share ideas and concepts with each other on how we are able to better serve the HIV community. I can’t wait to bring some of those ideas to everyone.
As a recap for all of this because it is just way too much information for me to provide in one blog is this. It was a great weekend filled will great people and awesome memories. I did take some time to visit some of the local sites as this was the first time I have ever had the chance to travel to New Jersey and New York. I went out to the Statue of Liberty on Friday and went across the river into New York City on Sunday to visit Ground Zero. I hope to be able to see all of these great people again in the future so that we can not only share new ideas but talk about how we have grown because of what we learned this weekend.