July 24, 2012
Two years ago I was sitting in my office watching the closing of AIDS 2010 which was in Vienna. My eyes teared up when Waheedah Shabazz-El spoke on the work we still have to do here in the United States. I knew right then that I was going to prepare myself to come to the International AIDS Conference 2012.
According to the CDC, as of 2008, 1.2 million persons in the United States were living with HIV. Approximately 80% are aware of their diagnosis; however, 20% are not aware that they are HIV-positive. It is estimated that 1/3 of individuals with known HIV in the U. S. are not receiving care.
I applied for a scholarship to attend the LIVING 2012 Pre-Conference, a conference for people living with HIV from around the world to improve our lives.
I came to the pre-conference with a mind set: "Here we go again. Everyone is speaking on the problems of the HIV epidemic, and not the solutions." I was wrong. We were given three global issues to solve within a working group and had to come up with what the key issues, solutions, and role of people living with HIV are in Human Rights of PLWH, Treatment, Prevention, Care and Support for PLWH and Community Mobilization and Activism.
We discussed criminalization of HIV transmission, exposure, and non-disclosure. In the United States, people living with HIV have been sent to prison under these laws for spitting. We know that the spitting isnt one of the body fluids that transmit HIV. These laws only keep stigma much alive within our society.
What are the issues around treatment as prevention? Weak health systems are one of the biggest challenges to increasing access to medication for all those who need them. Accessible treatment is bringing HIV medications and services closer to communities.
Activism and mobilization of people living with HIV in the early part of the HIV epidemic was how many activists ensure that they received proper HIV services and demand new improve HIV medications and refused be victims and lay down and die. It is essential that we as people living with HIV continue to mobilize, do demonstrations, and hold our governments accountable for more effective funds and efforts that will go into research, clinical trials improving current care for people living with HIV, and improve all HIV programs to end the AIDS epidemic around the world. We must move forward to begin talking about an AIDS free generation, but not without WOMEN!