The National AIDS Strategy: An Opportunity for Activism
Using the Strategy
This does not mean the Strategy is useless or unimportant. It provides a tremendous opportunity for advocates, who have long understood that the fight against HIV is more than just a matter of treatment options. Fortunately, there are signs of increasing awareness of other issues. Almost a year after the release of the Strategy, there have been several reports released by federal agencies that raise concerns about the realities of health disparities:
This research and information, confirming what advocates have been saying for years, is a step in the right direction. Health is political. As advocates, we must politicize our agenda. We must move beyond words like "co-factors" to ask more critical questions about what that term really means. Homophobia, transphobia, racism, poverty, etc., are complex issues that cannot be adequately addressed simply by acknowledging their existence. They are serious social forces that penetrate our society in deep ways and fundamentally implicate our legal and governmental system.
Fortunately, continuing research that acknowledges the existence of inequalities opens the door for these forces to enter the conversation, leading to greater understanding of their importance. It is our role to push the conversation further toward reality and to pressure the government to seriously address the consequences of co-factors. If discrimination affects HIV transmission and care, we must address it at all levels.
Understanding state and local agendas is vital to understanding the nuances of how the epidemic operates. Local organizations, service providers, people with HIV, and activists must collaborate and take the lead in creating responses that address the relevant local issues. The Strategy has opened the door, but it is up to us to walk through it. By creating approaches that acknowledge the inequalities driving the epidemic in our communities, we can hold government accountable to the Strategy, no matter its shortcomings.
Let's return to the vision statement of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy:
The Strategy cannot fully answer the question of how to address the HIV epidemic because it misunderstands the nature of the problem, even in its vision. If the government is serious about its commitment, it must consider the relationship between HIV and other co-factors. Disease may always be a reality, but the unequal impact on different communities can be stopped. Based on this, I offer a vision statement that truly reflects the problems behind the epidemic:
John Hellman is director of advocacy for the Latino Commission on AIDS.
This article was provided by ACRIA and GMHC. It is a part of the publication Achieve. Visit ACRIA's website and GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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