ACT UP New York's Banner Year in HIV Prevention May Show Us How to Prevent a Plague
December 16, 2013
What Is Happening With PHAG in the Near Future?
In the near future, I think it is urgent that PHAG and ACT UP NY force the New York State Department of Health to provide guidelines to clinicians on the use of PrEP. It is unacceptable that one and a half years after the FDA approved Truvada for PrEP, we still lack concrete directions from the top health institution of New York State. In the scenario we face now, with an urgent need in all our communities to know of, and be able to access, all proven prevention tools, from condoms to PrEP to getting tested regularly, the lack of these guidelines is being used as an excuse by physicians, who are excessively cautious, to refrain from prescribing PrEP to folks who could benefit from it.
At meetings like the ones I described earlier, several of us have forged friendships and working partnerships with an even more diverse array of New Yorkers engaged in the fight against HIV. I hope we can build on those relationships to help re-ignite a grassroots HIV movement.
Several community-based organizations, including ACT UP NY, are asking Governor Cuomo and Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to join us in pledging to work to put an end to the AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020. But unless the communities most affected by HIV demand that our elected officials truly focus our health care bureaucracies on HIV, fund all essential HIV services and give the affected communities a voice in what gets done and how, this initiative will remain a slogan.
I hope New Yorkers rise to the moment. I hope New Yorkers take the tools we now have -- a new understanding of how the epidemic moves in a community, new HIV testing, new prevention drugs, new ways to extend health care -- so we can treat more and more New Yorkers living with HIV and see fewer and fewer new HIV infections. If we let this opportunity pass and do nothing, the date of the end of the long and immeasurably costly AIDS epidemic will recede still further into a darker future.
We received some TV coverage and some Internet stories around PrEP and PEP, but it's not enough. Both the government and the manufacturer of Truvada-as-PrEP (Gilead) are afraid to touch this controversial hot potato, so we are doing it. We are asking New Yorkers to think seriously about how they plan to reduce their HIV risk and then do something about it. Half of MSM do not use condoms and even if they do, are they using them effectively? If they know they won't use condoms, are they taking PrEP daily? If they don't know their serostatus, will they get tested and treated if need be? There is no leadership asking these difficult questions because they assume AIDS is pretty much over, even though minority groups are still hardest hit. In my opinion, we've come way too far in the fight against AIDS and the fight for queer rights to sit back and be satisfied with just marriage. Marriage is fine, but it doesn't cure HIV.
Mathew Rodriguez is the editorial project manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.
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