2021 Keynote SPEAKERS
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Marye E. Bernard, DNP, FNP-BC, AAHIVM

Provider, Spirit Health Medical

Dr. Marye Bernard, Family Nurse Practitioner, is a 3-time graduate of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tennessee where she received Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate degrees and currently serves as an adjunct Assistant Professor.  She has 23 + years in providing care for Persons Living with HIV & AIDS. She is certified by the American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) as an expert specialist. She represents the South and serves as a voice with her position on the American Academy of HIV Medicine Steering committee. Dr. Marye Bernard’s publications include a chapter in an academic book along with articles exemplifying her knowledge and experience with HIV. She is committed to her passion for PLWH and considers herself blessed that God allows her to serve his people. Her stern, but motherly, love and encouragement have been her secret weapons for successfully caring for her patients. She combines expert knowledge, tender love and kindness, high expectations, genuine love and concern with a great big hug for the best outcomes ever, as evident in undetectable HIV viral loads in >90 percent of her patients. Dr. Bernard is the co-owner of Spirit Health Medical, which is an expert, wellness-oriented, faith-based medical home for Primary and HIV care. Stigma is lost and privacy is given since clients other than those living with HIV are served. She has always been supported by her husband of 38 years, Sylvester Bernard, and her two children, Ajada and Chad Bernard. She is a member of St. Augustine Catholic Church, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and grandmother to Jayden and Justyn who affectionately call her ‘Dude.’  

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Denise stokes

Author, Advocate, Motivational Speaker

Denise Stokes is a Motivational Speaker and an AIDS Advocate. Raped of her virginity in 1982 and infected with HIV at 13 years old, Denise was diagnosed at 16 as “incurable and fatal by 21.” Still, she wanted to LIVE before she died. With only self-advocacy and a few grass-roots prevention efforts as tools, Denise began to collect information and utilize public health officials as mentors. Over her 30 years of advocacy, Denise has worn many hats: Peer Counselor, Street Outreach Specialist, Community Building and Retention Specialist, Director of HIV Programs - even BET “Rap It Up” spokesperson. Ms. Stokes served on Bill Clinton’s Presidential HIV/AIDS Advisory Council and helped draft our first National AIDS Strategy including 134 Executive Directives. A recipient of the 2000 NAPWA Life Award, Denise was also named as one of 25 Heroes in America’s Fight Against AIDS. Now 52 years old and a 39-year AIDS survivor, Denise continues to eloquently carry a passionate message of prevention and awareness to the world.


Allison Ross EckarD, MD

Division Director, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, MUSC

Allison Ross Eckard, M.D. is jointly appointed as Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine, Divisions of Infectious Diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Eckard serves as the division chief for pediatric infectious diseases and director of MUSC’s Ryan White pediatric HIV clinic and HIV transition clinic. Prior to joining MUSC in 2015, she was on faculty at Emory University in Atlanta, GA in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases and currently maintains an adjunct faculty position there. She focuses on elucidating the role of inflammation and immune activation in common co-morbidities in HIV, like cardiovascular disease and bone disorders, as well as using targeted interventions to minimize the risk of co-morbidity development. She currently is a PI on an NIH R01 grant investigating a novel intervention to improve weight gain and abdominal fat in people with HIV. Dr. Eckard has investigated other novel treatments for co-morbidity risk reduction in HIV, including vitamin D supplementation and statin therapy. Dr. Eckard has published nearly 60 peer-reviewed research papers, review articles, and book chapters on this topic and presents frequently at national and international venues.

Dr. Eckard serves as the co-chair for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) panel for the “Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Exposed and HIV-Infected Children” and is an appointed scientific member for DHHS’s panel for the “Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Adults and Adolescents with HIV.” On the clinical side, Dr. Eckard specializes in the medical care and treatment for children, adolescents, and young adults in their 20s and early 30s with a new diagnosis of HIV or for those who acquired HIV at birth. Her clinical passion is in the optimization of comprehensive HIV treatment and antiretroviral therapy across the age spectrum and in addressing the unique needs of adolescents and young adults with HIV. She has earned her certification as an “HIV Specialist” within the American Academy of HIV Medicine and leads the HIV education at MUSC. Dr. Eckard is a medical consultant and volunteer for Lespwa Timoun, an organization in Haiti dedicated to child and maternal health. More recently, Dr. Eckard is working with other leaders at MUSC to maximize hospital operations and treatment guidelines for children with COVID-19 and is teaming up with South Carolina schools to implement risk mitigation strategies for safe in-person learning. 

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Justin C. Smith, MS, MPH

Director, Campaign to End AIDS at Positive Impact Health Centers and Behavioral Scientist, Emory University

Justin Smith is the Director of the Campaign to End AIDS at Positive Impact Health Centers, where he works with community partners to develop and implement strategies to bring about an end to the HIV epidemic in Metro Atlanta. For the last 20 years, Mr. Smith has worked in a variety of capacities in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) health and HIV research, focusing primarily on improving our understanding of the social determinants of HIV among marginalized communities in the United States, particularly Black gay and bisexual men. While working in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he helped launch and manage the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System for Young Men who Have Sex with Men. This project sought to improve our understanding of the determinants of HIV risk behaviors and HIV incidence among young men who have sex with men (ages 13-18 years). He also worked in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, as the coordinator for Strength Through Youth Livin’ Empowered (STYLE). This HRSA-funded initiative provided HIV testing and linkage to HIV care for young Black and Latino men who have sex with men who are living with HIV. Through STYLE, Mr. Smith facilitated support groups for young gay and bisexual men living with HIV, and he also organized an HIV testing campaign on college campuses across North Carolina that helped thousands of young people learn their HIV status. Mr. Smith received additional training in state and local HIV policy at the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, and in LGBTQ health at the Fenway Institute. Mr. Smith’s HIV research has been published in some of the leading academic journals in public health, and he has presented frequently at national and international conferences addressing HIV. Through conducting public health work rooted in an analytic framework informed by critical race theory and intersectionality, Mr. Smith hopes to understand—and help to change—the distal structural determinants of health that pattern HIV risk and other poor health outcomes, particularly for Black gay and bisexual men. Mr. Smith holds an MS in Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences from Emory University, an MPH in Health Behavior from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an AB in Sociology and Community Health from Brown University.