Bringing It Home: The International AIDS Conference and HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
July 5, 2012
This July has been designated as National HIV Awareness Month, a new initiative spearheaded by a coalition of national private and non-profit organizations to reinvigorate the national conversation on HIV/AIDS and refocus efforts to ending the epidemic in the United States. This initiative coincides with the return of the International AIDS Conference to the U.S. for the first time in over twenty years, which will be held in Washington, D.C. from July 22-27, with keynote addresses by former President Bill Clinton, Sir Elton John, and Whoopi Goldberg, among others. While the HIV/AIDS epidemic is now over thirty-years old, in the last decade or so the social imaginary in the United States seems to have refashioned the illness as a disease that occurs "everywhere but here."
Perhaps this is best illustrated by the number of domestic organizations that raise funds for HIV education, prevention, and treatment efforts to be used abroad, most frequently in Africa and other resource-poor locations. By selling shoelaces, digital music, t-shirts, and other special-edition manufactured goods, U.S. manufacturers use these funds, or a portion of these funds, to give HIV-positive mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and children the HIV/AIDS meds that are desperately needed and scarce in their international locales.
But are you ready for this? In the United States, there are over 50,000 new HIV infections each year. What's more, nearly twenty percent of those living with HIV in the country don't know they are infected, potentially exposing loved ones through something as simple as consensual unprotected sex, and half of those living with HIV (1.1 million) are not receiving regular care. Make no mistake: the HIV/AIDS battle at home is still at our doorstep.
That's why we're headed to the International AIDS Conference and marching on July 24th, because we know WE CAN END AIDS. Because we know that the international effort to end AIDS includes a fierce and unwavering dedication to also ending the epidemic at home. When we talk about an AIDS free generation, we are not talking about an AIDS free generation there but not here, we are talking about a global AIDS free generation.
Are international HIV/AIDS efforts needed? Absolutely and unequivocally yes. Yes, they are needed. It's not about who or where needs resources more, as though we can -- or would want to -- create a hierarchy of need, vulnerability, pain, or suffering. Rather, it's about working through a coalition and interconnected network of allies, advocates, and activists across the globe to realize how to simultaneously address HIV/AIDS by amending financial inequalities and mobilizing human rights.
Want to learn more, or march with us in DC? Visit www.wecanendAIDS.org.
This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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