July 27, 2012
At the close of the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C., we stand at a threshold between the past and the future. We can now imagine an AIDS-free world; it's at our doorstep within our reach -- but only if we decide to act now -- and we must act now.
Decisively. Deliberately. Definitively.
The End of AIDS: We have heard this phrase many times for the last five days. We have attended hundreds of sessions on the latest scientific HIV research, we have viewed thousands of posters pointing to new tools at our disposal; we have been inspired by numerous plenary speakers, leaders in their fields of research, science, advocacy and policy, who tell us that we are now beginning to turn the tide to on AIDS. But will we?
Despite the developments of recent years, serious problems remain.
There are approximately 50,000 people who become infected with HIV each year in the United States. This number has remained unchanged for nearly the past ten years. We need to make serious adjustments in our prevention methodologies.
"I charge everyone who attended this Conference to ask this one important question," said Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "Was it all worth it? Was it worth the time, energy and expense to come to Washington for a week or more? When we leave D.C., where do we go from here?"
We are done with the sessions and the lessons. Now we must move on and out beyond D.C. and back to our families and our communities, where we must spread the news from AIDS2012.
The Black AIDS Institute now demands for implementation of what we learned at this Conference. It's now up to us -- each and every one of us has an obligation to take what we have learned back into our communities, to our local leaders, our non-traditional partners, to our policy makers at every level.
"It's a huge undertaking but we must accept the charge," said Wilson. "We must aim beyond the five steps I outlined in my plenary speech and act on them: to fully implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to encourage every person with HIV to come out; to demand treatment to link individuals to the care they need; to integrate both biomedical and the behavioral therapies in our prevention and treatment efforts; and to ask AIDS organizations to re-tool themselves for a rapidly evolving AIDS landscape."
The Black AIDS Institute is doing just that by hosting post-Conference hubs in 13 U.S. cities most impacted by HIV/AIDS and by supporting training in community clinics and healthcare facilities to help build infrastructure and scale up access to care in the most impacted communities across Black America.
The End of AIDS is more than just a declaration: it's a commitment and it's a charge. We must now take the Conference on the road to turn the tide of HIV in our own neighborhoods. And we must do it now. An AIDS-Free Generation is within our reach only if we seize this moment and maximize this opportunity.
To end the epidemic, we have to bring the conversation home and re-energize our communities to act.
"Talking is not enough," said Wilson. "Yes, we can end this epidemic; if we act now. As we look back on this Conference and think about the End of AIDS -- it gives us hope and it reminds us of the work that is still left to be done. We must redouble our commitment to act. This is our charge. And we can prevail."