Lella Cosmaro is working in the AAE member organisation LILA – Milano. For four years she was the co-chair of the Civil Society Forum and since 2011 she has been the member of AAE Steering Committee. This year is the last one for her in this position. In the interview we asked Lella about her experiences as a SC member and why it is worth to join the AAE SC team.

AAE: Lella, you have been the member of the SC since January 2011, could you please tell our future SC members how it was in the beginning?

Lella: Things have surely changed since the beginning.  Initially I “studied” (very hard!) all of the documents that were sent to me - I wanted to be well prepared for the new role… The first SC meeting scared me a little, since I was worried I would not be able to give a sufficient contribution to the group.  I soon realized though that the SC members are very nice people, who welcome the newcomers and soon make them feel at home and all this makes you work effectively and productively.  I made great friends during these years and I am so happy I was part of the team. It has been a very valuable experience.

AAE: What was the biggest achievement of AAE during your time as a SC member?

Lella: I think the biggest achievement was the relocation of the network’s hosting organization and country.  In 2014, AAE moved from SOA AIDS Nederlands, based in Amsterdam, to Deutsche AIDS Hilfe, based in Berlin. We were afraid that the transition period would be very hard, but the great commitment of the two “offices” (the Dutch and the German one) and the support of the SC members resulted in a very smooth transition and contributed to the relaunch of the network.

AAE: Did you manage to achieve everything that you planned during your SC membership? 

Lella: I did not make any plans, but I would say that I cannot think of anything that went totally wrong.

AAE: In your opinion, why someone should apply for the SC member position, what are the benefits and possibilities for the person and his or her organization? And what, in your opinion, are the challenges?

Lella: The benefits and possibilities are many and surely count much more than the challenges.  Being part of the AAE SC contributes to the professional growth of its members and gives the opportunity to gain a much wider perspective about all the topics and issues connected to HIV, hepatitis, STIs, and EU health and human rights policies more in general.  It is also a great chance to get to know new European “colleagues” and learn from their experiences, and to travel to new countries at least twice a year, which gives the possibility to see what is happening elsewhere. The challenges are mostly connected to the time that needs to be allocated to the tasks assigned to SC members; let’s say I was happy to find it, but sometimes it was not easy.  Also my organization is happy about the opportunity I had, since it gained visibility and established good connections with other European NGOs.

AAE: This is your last year as a SC member, what would you like to say or wish to the future SC members?

Lella: I wish that they can gain as much as I did during these 6 years; if there is anybody who is still undecided about applying for the position, I would definitely suggest to go ahead.  Don’t miss this chance!

AAE: Lella, thank you very much for your commitment and your work all those years! We are sure we will keep our close contact and collaborate with you in the future.