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Speaking What's Right

By Shenell Evans, Ph.D.

November 13, 2012

Shenell Evans, Ph.D.

Among HIV/AIDS advocates, one of the major issues in this election was healthcare. There have been many advances in the past four years. We have a National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), FDA approval of an HIV-prevention pill, and the Affordable Care Act.

However, a tremendous amount of work remains to implement and evaluate the NHAS, to address loopholes in "treatment as prevention," and to fully establish and tighten up Obamacare. As I studied candidate platforms, I looked deeper to see who had a heart for people and who cared about creating opportunity for all people to be able to take care of themselves by having equal access to quality healthcare. President Barak Obama fit the description!

In communities of color, patterns of behavior can be addressed through advocacy and community mobilization. There are numerous organizations and advocates preaching the importance of preventative care, early treatment and healthy behaviors, including the Black AIDS Institute. Now, we have political allies to continue our forward progress against the epidemic through the creation, adoption, and implementation of legislation that ensures equal opportunity healthcare at state and federal levels.

A few days after Hurricane Sandy, I was out with my family running errands and overheard two gentlemen discussing their views regarding the local transit authority's decision to begin charging again after two days of free travel on buses and subways. "It felt good. It felt right," one of them said of the respite from fares. "You should be able to get where you need to go without worrying about having enough fare." While free transportation is not likely to become the norm, I agree that it felt right, and the healthcare parallels jumped out at me.

My observation is that low financial/healthcare resources translate into poor health for a number of reasons: it facilitates the tendency to ignore health issues until they become chronic, further engenders distrust of the medical/insurance/healthcare system, and creates the need to prioritize daily needs and obligations over routine care. Scores of middle-class and impoverished people have to consider whether they put food on the table or attend a doctor's appointment that may lead to expensive prescriptions, lots of tests, more appointments -- ultimately more money. It's all too easy to conclude, "Why bother going in the first place?" While on President Obama's watch, we've made great strides toward ending this cycle.

On Election Day, I proudly offered my support, my voice, to the President. With my 6-year old daughter by my side, I waited in line for 20 minutes to cast my ballot. Afterwards we captured the joy of the moment with a few pictures. I'm so glad to have shared this historic moment with her. Truly, the results of this election represent a monumental step forward because healthcare matters influence all other aspects of this country. In terms of national economic security, a sick-and-can't-get-well workforce severely impacts both private and public job markets. Thus, failure to follow through and finish what's been started would have been a public-health catastrophe. Thankfully, we've done what's right, what's good for all Americans, especially those in need.

Congratulations America! Our votes = our voice, and we used our voice to speak what's right.

Shenell Evans, Ph.D,. is a BTAN fellow and a postdoctoral fellow at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.




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