October 8, 2012
Last December on World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama electrified the HIV community by saying (1) we really can end this epidemic -- we knew that, and (2) they were committed to getting the job done. The big news was that we finally had commitment from the highest levels of government, not just to slow down this country's epidemic, but to end it -- because, finally we can. World AIDS Day is coming around again, just eight weeks away, and it's been a sobering year.
The XIX International AIDS Conference, in Washington, D.C. in steamy July, returned again and again to social injustice as the main barrier to getting the job done. We have the science to end AIDS -- more would be welcome, but the toolkit we have now will do -- but the science can't work in environments where people who need it can't access it. Gay men in countries where distributing condoms can be prosecuted as "promotion of homosexuality." Injection drug users whose governments (elected or self-appointed) forbid opiate substitution and syringe exchange programs because they "condone" drug use. Women and girls denied HIV protection and basic reproductive information precisely because that would make them free to make their own sexual decisions.
We are putting this issue of Positive Voice to bed, just after National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NGMHAAD), September 26 across the country, and the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA), September 30-October 3 in Las Vegas. In different ways, each was about opportunities and barriers.
We'll report on USCA: barriers to ending AIDS in this country, promising new science, and concerns of a graying population of people living with HIV.
We'll report on NGMHAAD: opportunities and barriers to reaching gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) -- still the group most heavily impacted in this country -- with HIV awareness and testing information. Special concerns of gay men living with the virus or at risk. Reports on national HIV policy and new treatment developments.
And for the first time in more than two years, we won't cover ADAP waiting lists. They aren't quite gone, but the number of ADAP-qualifying Americans still waiting for medication assistance is under a hundred and heading down. We can move on now to more fundamental questions. How do we raise income eligibility ceilings for Medicaid, ADAP, and Ryan White programs in general, so we no longer have a population in this country to poor to buy their own health care coverage but too "rich" to qualify for basic government assistance? How do we level the health care playing field (and educational and economic opportunity playing fields) for groups who have been shut out for generations? How do we end the war on women's reproductive rights and make evidence-based HIV education and prevention available to all American -- especially women and girls?
To do what we have committed ourselves to doing, we have to answer those questions. It's been almost a year, and the next World AIDS Day is coming.