Category Archives: HIV Activism

April 10th is National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

From HIV.gov

sign saying National Youth HIV Awareness DayAll youth deserve access to comprehensive sexual health education. National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) is an opportunity to work together to make this a reality. By educating youth about the basics of HIV, how to protect themselves, find testing, treatment and care services, and confront HIV stigma in their communities, we are empowering them to take an active role in ending the HIV epidemic for future generations.

Today’s youth have many of the same hopes and dreams as previous generations. But we must also recognize they are distinct in many ways too. Their widespread passion for advocacy and social change sets them apart. They also face unique challenges and barriers when it comes to achieving those dreams.

In 2018, youth aged 13 to 24 made up 21% of the 37,832 new HIV diagnoses in the United States and dependent areas. Most new youth diagnoses were among gay, bisexual men, and men who have sex with men (MSM). Most of these new diagnoses occurred among young Black and Latinx MSM. Yet, in 2018, youth were the least likely age group to be aware they had HIV, remain in care, or achieve viral suppression. One of the most important things we can do to change this trend is to provide accurate, age-appropriate, and culturally sensitive information about HIV.

Read the full article.

Scientists Debunk Myth That ‘Patient Zero’ Brought AIDS to America

From PBS.org

For more than 30 years, Gaétan Dugas was blamed for bringing the AIDS epidemic to the United States. A French-Canadian who died in 1984, Dugas was thought to have carried the disease to America and transmitted it to scores of sexual partners while working as a flight attendant.

AIDS protest banner

But this week, scientists finally cleared the name of the man who, in the history of the AIDS epidemic, came to be known as “Patient Zero.”

In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers found that blood sampled from Dugas in 1983 contained the same strain of HIV that was infecting men in New York City as early as 1971 — three years before he arrived in the U.S. as an employee for Air Canada.

“In short, we found no evidence that Patient 0 was the first person infected by this lineage of HIV-1,” the researchers wrote.

The study builds on decades of research that has sought to answer the medical mystery of how exactly AIDS made its way to the U.S.

Read the full article on PBS.org.

Fight HIV in PA: Join the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s HIV Planning Group

The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s HIV Planning Group (HPG) is a diverse group that shares expertise and life experiences to enhance HIV prevention and care services in the state.

decorative image of hands forming a red ribbon symbol The HPG also provides a forum for community members and health professionals to provide input to the Pennsylvania HIV Prevention and Care Plan (a document that sets standards for testing and care and provides guidelines for stakeholders and service providers regarding HIV). The HPG is committed to incorporating the values of inclusion, representation, reflectiveness, and parity into PA’s plan to reduce the spread of HIV.

Meetings are held bi-monthly in Harrisburg. Travel expenses, lodging, and meals are reimbursed.

Interested applicants may contact the recruitment organizer, Corrine Bozich at cnb31@pitt.edu. You can also apply at StopHIV.com. Note that the submission deadline is November 6th.

“Speak for Health” is how APHA members stand up for public health interests

From the American Public Health Association

APHA believes public health professionals deserve a stronger voice in public health advocacy. Together, we can change the narrative and turn the tide. #SpeakForHealth

APHA is the leading voice for public health in Washington. The policies we advance are based in science, research and member-led processes. Join us and Speak for Health — for today and future generations.

Speak for Health banner

Public Health on the Ballot

This November, 435 U.S. representatives and 35 U.S. senators are up for election. As you consider your options at the polls ask your candidates these questions to find out where they stand on critical public health issues (PDF). We need champions in Washington, D.C., who will support evidence-based policies that prioritize the public’s health.

Find out what you can do to Speak for Health.

Updating State & Local Health Departments About EHE

From HIV.gov

NASTAD HIV and Hepatitis assistance meeting logoOn October 1, I joined federal colleagues from CDC and HRSA in a virtual meeting with HIV and viral hepatitis program leaders from state and local health departments. The meeting, organized by NASTAD  as the first part of their annual technical assistance meeting, provided an opportunity for sharing updates and engaging in dialogue with these key stakeholders in Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE). Much of the conversation focused on EHE as well as the broader response to HIV and other infectious diseases amid the pandemic.

Here are some highlights…

HIV.gov: Introducing the “AHEAD” dashboard

To support the efforts of local partners in ending the HIV epidemic in their communities, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is announcing the launch of a new tool, AHEAD: America’s HIV Epidemic Analysis Dashboard.

AHEAD button link
What is the AHEAD Dashboard?

AHEAD is a data visualization tool created to support the efforts of local health departments towards reaching the goals of the Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE) initiative.

Who Can Use the AHEAD Dashboard?
AHEAD allows jurisdictions, community organizations, and other stakeholders to monitor progress towards meeting the goals of EHE and use data to inform national and jurisdictional action.

Dashboard Overview
AHEAD graphically visualizes data and targets for jurisdictions to track their progress on the six EHE indicators:
•    Incidence
•    Knowledge of Status
•    Diagnoses
•    Linkage to HIV Medical Care
•    Viral Suppression
•    PrEP Coverage

What’s Next? 
Over the next year, AHEAD will add additional features and expanded data sets to further to encourage progress towards EHE initiative goals.

Explore the AHEAD Dashboard today and view our progress towards ending the HIV epidemic in America

Explore AHEAD

National HIV Testing Day is June 27 2020

A message from HIV.gov and ADM Brett Giroir, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services…

In the 25 years since National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) was first observed on June 27th, we’ve made remarkable progress on HIV prevention, treatment, and research—but people who haven’t been tested will not know their status or how to benefit from prevention tools or HIV medications.

So the theme for this year’s observance—“Knowing”—is particularly important. It means:

I invite you to watch this message  from ADM Brett Giroir, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about these important aspects of Knowing.

The only way to know your HIV status is to get tested—and taking that test is a key step down the path toward ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.

That’s the path we are walking with the Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE) initiative, which aims to achieve epidemic control in our nation within 10 years. How? By decreasing the number of new HIV transmissions by at least 90% by 2030. The first pillar of EHE is to diagnose all people with HIV as early as possible.

Read more on HIV.gov.

The history of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

From the TheBody

The history of HIV/AIDS is a long and complicated one. There are many conflicting details in its story, and each life touched by the virus has a complicated and beautiful story of their own. In this synopsis, we have tried our best to highlight the most crucial parts of the story of HIV in America, understanding that this is a near-impossible task. HIV stands out from many diseases, because today we are still without a cure—but also, perhaps more importantly, because the AIDS pandemic is now embedded into the histories and cultures of queer people, people of color, creative communities, and dozens of fringe and subculture groups; AIDS has become part of our own personal histories.

Scientists suggest that traces of HIV date as far back as 1931 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Before the 1980s, researchers estimate that about 100,000 to 300,000 people contracted HIV around the world.

In 1969, a Black teenager in St. Louis named Robert Rayford died of an illness that baffled his doctors. Officially, his death was the result of pneumonia. Robert Rayford, also known as “Robbie” or “Bobbie,” was said to have been shy and socially awkward and possibly had a cognitive disability. Little is known about the young man’s life. His doctors have stated that Rayford often avoided or refused to share much information about his life or family; however, it has been suggested that he contracted an HIV-like virus through sexual assault. Nineteen years later, in 1988, molecular biologists at Tulane University in New Orleans tested samples of his frozen tissue and found evidence of HIV, although the lack of 100% certainty of these test results is still talked about in the scientific and public health communities. Still, Robert Rayford is often remembered as the first known case and fatality of HIV-1 in the United States.

Many people in the LGBT community and health care workers anecdotally say they were beginning to see people die mysteriously in the 1970s, from what they now believe were HIV-related illnesses. But it was on June 5, 1981, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report the appearance of a rare pneumonia in five young gay men in Los Angeles. Additionally, the men, all of whom would die, showed compromised immune systems. Across the country, a New York dermatologist tipped the CDC to a baffling spate of cases of an aggressive cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma. Each of these cases appeared in gay men. Newspapers and other media outlets began to report about a “gay men’s pneumonia” and “possible gay cancer.” Headlines across the United States and, shortly thereafter, the world, claimed a new “Gay Cancer” was responsible for the otherwise uncertain cause of death of multiple gay and bisexual men. At the close of 1981, there were 270 reported cases of severe immune deficiency among gay men, and 121 of them had already died. Uncertainty lead to fear in queer communities; acknowledgement and, therefore, action were almost nonexistent in mainstream culture and communities.

Continue reading on TheBody.com.

Webinar Series: Engaging Community in Ending HIV Epidemic Through Digital Technology

In collaboration with Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), NASTAD will host a webinar series titled Effectively Engaging Community in the Ending the HIV Epidemic Process Through Digital Technology. The series aims to support health departments and community-based organizations (CBOs) to accelerate jurisdictional efforts toward Ending the HIV Epidemic.

With the current challenges presented by COVID-19 and with expanded opportunities to use digital technology (e.g., internet, social media, virtual meeting spaces, digital devices) this series will explore the relationship between community engagement and digital technology, and how it can be leveraged to expand HIV prevention and care planning and service delivery.

This series will present on digital activities and tools from the perspectives of EHE HIV community planning, HIV service delivery, and determining where to direct funding. NASTAD, KFF, and peer jurisdictions present this information across three webinars:

  • Learning How to Apply Digital Technology to HIV Community Planning
    • Date: June 25, 2020 at 3:00 – 4:00 PM EDT
  • Exploring Digital Resources and Strategies to Expand HIV Services to Community
    • Date: July 14, 2020 at 2:00 – 3:00 PM EDT
  • Determining the Best Monetary Value When Using Digital Technology
    • Date: TBD

To register for the webinar series, please click here. Additional details about the webinars and presenters will follow. For questions or to learn more about the series, please contact Kristina Santana.

How AIDS Remained an Unspoken—But Deadly—Epidemic for Years

From History.com

By the end of 1984, AIDS had already ravaged the United States for a few years, affecting at least 7,700 people and killing more than 3,500. Scientists had identified the cause of AIDS—HIV—and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified all of its major transmission routes.

Marchers on a Gay Pride parade through New York City
Marchers on a Gay Pride parade through New York City

Yet, U.S. leaders had remained largely silent and unresponsive to the health emergency. And it wasn’t until September 1985, four years after the crisis began, that President Ronald Reagan first publicly mentioned AIDS.

But by then, AIDS was already a full-blown epidemic.

HIV originated in 1920 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. It spread to Haiti and the Caribbean before jumping to New York City around 1970 and California within the decade.

Health officials first became aware of AIDS in the summer of 1981. Young and otherwise healthy gay men in Los Angeles and New York began getting sick and dying of unusual illnesses normally associated with people with weakened immune systems.

It didn’t take long for fear of the “gay plague” to spread quickly among the gay community. Beyond the mortal danger from the disease, they also dealt with potentially being “outed” as homosexual if they had AIDS or an illness resembling it.

In fall 1982, the CDC described the disease as AIDS for the first time. Despite the growing cases and a new name, news outlets struggled with the disease, or at least how to cover it—some even shied away from giving it too much attention. Though the New York Times initially reported on the mysterious illnesses in July 1981, it would take almost two years before the prestigious paper gave AIDS front-page space on May 25, 1983. By that time, almost 600 people had died from it.

David W. Dunlap, a reporter in the Metro section at the time, told the New York Times Style Magazine: “There were strong messages that you got that were not written on any whiteboard. You knew to avoid it. It was a self-reinforcing edict: Don’t write about queers.”

Read the full article on History.