By Beth Kormanik Posted July 24, 2012, 6:21 PM EDT
WASHINGTON As many as 30,000 visitors are visiting Washington this week for the XIX International AIDS Conference, marking the first time some hospitality workers will knowingly interact with someone living with H.I.V. or AIDS.
With that in mind, organizers of the conference, known as AIDS 2012, worked with the city's convention and tourism corporation, Destination DC, to make sure the attendees were welcomed to the city. They came up with a five-day training course developed with the D.C. Department of Health.
“We knew we had to do some kind of education or training for the front-line staff in the hotels and restaurants,” said Dianna Waldroup, director of convention services at Destination DC. The initial idea was to have a one-day training event with a day session and night session. But when Levi Strauss & Company joined the project as a sponsor, the idea grew into creating training materials in both English and Spanish and distributing them to a wider audience—airports, police, mass transit staffs, and others would likely would come in contact with attendees. “We reached many more people by sending this to them than by having it come to us,” Waldroup said.
Conference planners suggested two roll-out dates for the training materials: June 25 to coincide with National H.I.V. Testing Day, and July 16 to sync the final day of the suggested discussions with the first day of the convention.
“The thought was to be sensitivity training, but it's much more than that. It's educating,” Waldroup said. “It's very basic info on having that interaction with people with H.I.V. We did a lot of customer service to make sure the whole city is ready and able to support the conference and attendees.”
The materials suggested five days' worth of activities for operations staffs that can take as little as five minutes or simply be posted on break room walls. Managers are provided scenarios and engage with employees through an interactive question-and-answer session. For example: “Working together means supporting each other. How do you support a colleague who accidentally cuts himself opening a box at work? You want to make sure he is safe, but, you’re worried because he’s bleeding and it may get on you. What do you do?”
Managers are supplied with answers, as well as facts about H.I.V. and AIDS in the Washington area and suggestions on where to find follow-up information.
After the conference ends, Destination DC plans to find out how the materials were used and whether they were helpful.