November 7, 2012
Image courtesy of nytimes.com.
Election day is over, the votes have been counted, and Barack Obama will remain our President for the next four years. While Democrats breathe a sigh of relief and Republicans shake their fists at the gods that have doomed them to four more years of a Democratic President, AIDS advocates, activists, and people living with HIV/AIDS are strategizing how to ensure that our President and Congress do what is necessary to bring an end to this epidemic both domestically and globally.
Over the past year and a half, legions advocates and activists took to the streets to fight for syringe exchange access, ADAP, women's rights, parity in addressing the epidemic, adequate funding, fair drug pricing, and housing for people with living with HIV/AIDS as a structural intervention for both prevention and improved health outcomes.
While some of this advocacy was applauded, there were others who fearedand criticizedthat our organizing would blow the election by raising these issues or appearing critical of our President and political leaders. But in this precarious political climate, where both major political parties managed to get nothing done, the country was heading toward a fiscal cliff because the federal appropriations process was rendered moot, and all the while completely ignoring the needs of poor people, standing idly by, or waiting patiently, simply wasn't an option. Indeed, when the name of the (political) game was to pit the rich against the middle class and running a racially charged election, we had to be proactive, not reactive.
Now, with the casting of the last ballot and the outcome secure, I hope we can now regain our advocacy footing and work together to really get some things accomplished for PLWHAs. Our priorities moving forward include:
While many of the issues that impact people living with HIV/AIDS were completely overlooked during the debates or this very long election season, they will not go unaddressed during the next for years. We will work together as a country and a global community to ensure that our voices are heard and our needs are met.
There are those who argue that staying under the political radar protects what we have, asking us not to "rock the boat." But what good is protecting what we have if it is not what we need? We cannot afford to accept the status quo when we are so close making tremendous strides in getting to zero: zero infections, zero discrimination, zero stigma. Science is on our side, giving us monumental leaps in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and we are even looking at finding a cure.
Now is time for AIDS advocates, activists, and people living with HIV/AIDS to make our voices heard and push this Administration and Congress to do what we know can be done to improve and save the lives of those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
I hope you will join us.
Christine Campbell is Housing Works' vice president for national advocacy and organizing.