Category Archives: Commentary

Today is World AIDS Day 2020

From the World Health Organization (WHO)…

On 1 December WHO joins partners in paying tribute to all those working to provide HIV services, and in calling on global leaders and citizens to rally for “global solidarity” to maintain essential HIV services during COVID 19 and beyond. It is a call to focus on vulnerable groups who are already at risk and expand coverage to children and adolescentsAnd in 2020, the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, it is a call for more protection and support to these health workers who have long been on the frontline of HIV service delivery.  We can all contribute to the effort to end AIDS and  make the world a healthier place.

Find out more on the WHO Website.

NASTAD: Black Lives Matter

From the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors

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The core of NASTAD’s mission is an unwavering commitment to social justice. We recognize that we will not end the HIV and hepatitis epidemics and related syndemics without dismantling the systems of oppression that fuel racial disparities in access and outcomes. We prioritize fighting injustices where we see them, and we value diversity and inclusivity in all forms. In 2016, NASTAD released the “NASTAD’s Commitment to Black Lives” statement, which stated, “racism has imprinted a legacy of systemic injustices against Black people in the United States. The pervasive undercurrent of white privilege and supremacy exists in the form of obstructed economic, political, and social power for Black people in America.” Four years later, we amplify this message more than ever.

Read the full statement here.

Fauci: Gay people lifted stigma with ‘incredible courage’ in HIV/AIDS epidemic

From the Washington Blade

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the visibility LGBTQ people brought to themselves during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic helped change the tide for public perception.

Fauci made the remarks during the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing when responding to COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on black Americans, saying the disease has “shed a light” on health disparities in the United States much like HIV/AIDS did with LGBTQ people.

“During that time, there was extraordinary stigma, particularly against the gay community,” Fauci said. “And it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism — I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community, very much so.”

See the video here.

Challenging HIV Stigma

From Sean Strub,  POZ Magazine’s founder…

Biomedical advances against HIV since the dawn of the epidemic have been nothing short of astonishing. An almost always fatal disease is now, for those with the privilege of access to treatment, a manageable chronic illness, treated with a single daily pill. A person who acquires HIV today has every reason to expect to live a normal life span.

Yet with such astonishing success in treatment, why is HIV stigma worse today than ever before? Why do so many long-term survivors, including many who were exceptionally open about their HIV-positive status for years, find they must now keep it a secret, sometimes going deeply into closets they thought they had left for good years ago?

Many people—especially those who do not have HIV—find these questions startling. That’s because they remember the days when one had to wear a spacesuit to visit a person with AIDS in a hospital or was afraid to eat in a restaurant with gay waiters or refused to touch a person they thought might have the virus.

Read the full article.

NIH Statement on World AIDS Day 2019

From the NIH

Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America aims to close this implementation gap. NIH-funded advances in effective HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care are the foundation of this effort. In addition, expanded partnerships across HHS agencies, local community organizations, health departments, and other organizations will drive new research to determine optimal implementation of these advances. This type of research is called “implementation science,” and is essential to translate proven tools and techniques into strategies that can be adopted at the community level, particularly for communities most vulnerable to HIV.

Understanding what works to prevent and treat HIV at the community level is critical to the success of the Ending the HIV Epidemic plan. More than 50% of new HIV diagnoses in 2016 and 2017 occurred in just 50 geographic areas: 48 counties; Washington, D.C.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Seven states also have a disproportionate occurrence of HIV in rural areas. For its first five years, the new initiative will infuse new resources, expertise, and technology into communities in those key geographic areas.

However, communities are more than just geography. On World AIDS Day, we are reminded that Ending the HIV Epidemic must take place “Community by Community.” The people affected by HIV are a part of unique communities often shaped by differences in race, ethnicity, gender, culture, and socioeconomics. To reach people who have different needs, preferences, and choices, and ensure that HIV treatment and prevention tools can work in their lives, we must go beyond a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Read the full statement on the NIH Website.

The most insidious virus: stigma

From the Washington Blade

Stigma did not create AIDS. Yet it prepared the way and speeded its ravaging course through America and the world. First stigma delayed understanding of the disease: it’s a gay cancer, it’s a punishment from God, they brought it on themselves, so who cares? Then stigma delayed government action, research, and assistance for the sick and dying. Stigma made people afraid to get tested for HIV and treated. Stigma made people ashamed, isolating and alienating them from friends and family. Stigma cost people jobs, professional standing, housing, a seat on an airplane or in a dentist’s chair. Stigma made many afraid to live, and want to die. But then it began to make some brave people very angry and AIDS activism was born. The activists quickly realized that to end AIDS we must end stigma.

AIDS activism did more to fight the stigma on being gay or having AIDS than any other social force. In this way, AIDS activism, like the civil rights movement, became a great moral movement of our time, defending the innocent, restoring dignity to the violated, giving hope to the desperate, and reviving faith in the disillusioned. AIDS activism gave LGBT people courage, dignity, and power they had never held before.  It inspired many to stand up and proudly proclaim who they are and who they love. Twenty-six of the world’s most advanced countries now recognize gay marriage and today a gay man openly married to another man is a prominent candidate for President of the United States.

Read the full article.

Latinx students need access to PrEP on college campuses

From hivplusmag.com

It’s clear that there are discrepancies in the support young men of color have when it comes to accessing key sexual health services. So, what can we do to change this?

One way we can help young people prevent HIV is through providing PrEP on college campuses. Providing PrEP on college campuses gives young people the tools they need, while also eliminating the stigma around HIV. Navigating college as Latinx students can already be difficult enough, especially for first generation students like myself. In my experience, feeling supported by your school is key in creating an environment where all students can thrive, and having your health needs met is a part of that.

Providing PrEP on college campuses also eliminates another barrier many students face in accessing PrEP: transportation. Given that not all schools are located in metropolitan areas, some young people may have to travel unrealistic distances to the nearest clinic to find PrEP. Students attending college outside of their hometowns might not even have access to a car, eliminating the option of transportation altogether.

Read the full article.

Acceptance Journeys Pittsburgh – Photo stories of love and acceptance

Faith, Michael, and Michelle
participants of Project Silk Pittsburgh: Faith, Michael, and Michelle
L to R: Faith, Michael, Michelle

“When a person comes out to you, keep in mind that the person has not changed. The relationship you established with that person stays the same. It’s just another label, and there are layers and layers of labels that we all put on ourselves and that we give to each other. So when you learn this new information about somebody, does it really change the soul of the relationship? Are your feelings rich enough and deep enough that you established a relationship because you love this person? Or were your feelings so superficial that now that you’ve learned this element about this person, it’s enough to cause you concern? It’s a personal question that you have to ask yourself. If you love a person, if you’re friends with a person, if you cherish a person, then those labels shouldn’t matter.”

Find out more on Acceptance Journeys’ Website. 

We won’t end the HIV epidemic until we help the most vulnerable

How do we reduce rates concentrated among black and Latino men who have sex with men? Or meet the needs of HIV-positive patients caught between insurance plans or places to live? To end the epidemic, we must start where we began — by focusing on those most affected, uniting advocacy efforts, pushing for a cross-sector response and focusing on the social determinants of health.

As someone who has spent the better part of my professional career as both an advocate and HIV public health expert, I’ve been reflecting on the decades-long fight for gay rights sparked by people who gathered together at Stonewall in 1969 to demand change for the LGBTQ+ community and put an end to years of discrimination. Not long after, the AIDS epidemic swept across the country, closely intertwining the movement for increased LGBTQ+ rights with the AIDS response. Gay rights groups were relentless in pushing for increased government attention and funding as thousands died from the disease. Activists organized “buyers clubs,” lobbied for faster FDA approval of promising drugs and countered the fear and discrimination people living with AIDS faced.

Read the full article.