So now you know -- the State of AIDS in Black America is dire and getting worse. Moreover, over the past eight years Washington has done little to nothing about that fact. So what are you going to do about it? We've got some ideas.
First and foremost, make sure you're taking personal responsibility for ending AIDS.
- Get Tested. If you're sexually active, get tested on a regular basis -- and take everyone you love with you, especially anyone you're having sex with;
- Challenge Stigma. It's killing us. Don't let shame surrounding HIV -- or sex, or drugs, or gay and bisexual relationships -- cripple you or your community. Challenge it every time you encounter it, because silence still equals death.
- Be Active Locally. Find out where you can volunteer to help organizations that are combating HIV in your community. Contact one of the national organizations discussed in this report to find out if they have a local chapter.
One great way to get involved locally is to join our Test 1 Million campaign. (See "Test 1 Million" on page 37.) Launched on National HIV Testing Day 2008, the campaign aims to get one million Black Americans to learn their HIV status over the next two years -- by National HIV Testing Day 2010, on June 27 of that year.
Organizations and individuals can sign up for the Test 1 Million campaign at www.BlackAIDS.org. Individuals interested in joining the campaign are asked to get tested for HIV/AIDS in order to become an official Test 1 Million member.
Tell Washington to Get a Strategy
Once you've taken responsibility for yourself and your loved ones, you've got to demand federal policy makers take responsibility, too. The Obama administration and Congress present a unique opportunity for our community's fight against AIDS. But we must engage and support them to ensure their promises and potential lead to real changes.
The first thing you can do is join the Call to Action for a National AIDS Strategy. (See page 30 for details.) Below is a letter you can send to the White House urging President Obama to fulfill his pledge to draft a national strategy; it also contains principles for that strategy that the Call to Action signatories and the Black AIDS Institute have developed.
Log on to BlackAIDS.org and we'll help you send the letter as an email. Once you've sent it to the Obama administration, forward a copy to the Congressional Black Caucus, to let them know you've joined the movement!
Dear President Obama,
I write to congratulate you on your new administration. As someone who cares about the devastating impact HIV/AIDS has had on the Black community, I know that your administration offers enormous promise for a new day in our nation's long struggle against this epidemic. I'm especially encouraged by your promise to develop and implement a national AIDS strategy during your first year in office.
More than 27 years into the epidemic, America has never had a comprehensive strategy to direct its response to AIDS. That's a simple, essential step that we require of any country seeking our foreign assistance, and it's long overdue. Thank you for your commitment to making it happen.
More than 350 organizations and thousands of individuals have already signed a Call to Action for a National AIDS Strategy. I join those voices in urging your administration to begin work on drafting the strategy within its first 100 days. We urge that, in developing the strategy, you adhere to the principles articulated below, many of which you have already championed.
Your administration faces many grave challenges. But as articulated in a recent report -- Making Change Real: The State of AIDS in Black America, 2009, available at www.BlackAIDS.org -- HIV/AIDS presents yet another long-neglected problem that we cannot afford to put off addressing. Every year of delay means another 56,000 new infections, half of them among Black Americans.
Thank you for your continued commitment and leadership in the movement to build a healthy Black America. I look forward to joining you as, together, we end this epidemic!
Yours in the struggle,
My City and State:
Principles for Developing a National AIDS Strategy
The signatories of the Call to Action for a National AIDS Strategy have urged President Obama to create an open, orderly and accountable process for drafting his national strategy. The following recommendations incorporate both the Black AIDS Institute's own recommendations and those of the overall coalition.
Establish an inclusive, comprehensive panel to guide the process. The coalition recommends that the president, acting through the Domestic Policy Council, appoint a panel of experts on HIV/AIDS from every department of the United States government with responsibilities for responding to the epidemic. The panel must also include representatives of key non-governmental and civil society organizations, people living with and at risk for HIV, and other stakeholders.
This panel must reflect the diverse communities affected by HIV/AIDS. It should hold at least one meeting at which it receives public input into the development of the strategy, and at least two meetings at which its deliberations are open to the public. The panel should take into account stakeholder input -- gathered in multiple ways -- and the best available evidence on effective strategies to achieve HIV prevention, care, and research goals.
Begin work immediately. In keeping with President Obama's campaign pledge, the strategy should be fully developed no later than January 20, 2010, and be operational until December 31, 2014. Further, President Obama should appoint a national AIDS strategy panel within his first 100 days in office, as well as a White House-level presidential advisor to oversee the strategy's development and implementation.
Appoint an AIDS czar with meaningful power. President Obama should reinvigorate a White House?level office to direct federal AIDS policy -- a longstanding function that waned under the Bush administration. The office should provide staffing to the national strategy panel and be headed by a presidential advisor with authority to oversee and coordinate all government agencies and federally funded non-governmental organizations involved in implementing the strategy.
Budget enough money to make meaningful planning possible. President Obama must request and Congress must appropriate sufficient funding for Fiscal Year 2009 to allow the White House?level AIDS office to plan and implement a national AIDS strategy. The president must commit to continued funding in his subsequent budget requests to assure the development, implementation, and evaluation of the strategy. This funding must be in addition to the desperately needed investments for ongoing prevention, care, treatment and research efforts.
Have measurable, realistic and specific goals. The national AIDS strategy should not repeat or recreate the exhaustive set of goals that have characterized previous planning efforts to respond to the epidemic, though many of the goals these plans have described are important. Instead, the national AIDS strategy must:
- Describe a limited and focused set of strategic initiatives that will increase to the highest possible levels the number of Americans who know their HIV status and the number of HIV-positive Americans who are engaged in comprehensive, high-quality care and treatment for HIV and related conditions; reduce to the lowest possible levels the disparities in health outcomes that are experienced by gay and other men who have sex with men, communities of color, and women; and reduce to the lowest possible levels the number of new cases of HIV infection that occur annually;
- Prioritize initiatives targeting populations or jurisdictions with the highest prevalence and incidence of HIV/AIDS in the nation (consistent with current epidemiological data), with emphasis on outcomes related to African Americans and other communities of color, women of color, and gay men of all races and ethnicities;
- Describe the legislation, policies and programs that are necessary to carry out those initiatives;
- Set specific outcomes by which each of the initiatives will be evaluated, along with timelines for implementing them;
- Assign responsibility for implementation of each of the action steps to appropriate government agencies and create mechanisms to facilitate collaboration between these agencies and non-governmental organizations;
- Determine the annual cost and financing mechanisms necessary for implementing each initiative, along with recommended sources of funds. Sources may include the redirection of existing federal resources to the action steps contained in the strategy, as well as additional resources that should be sought by the president from the Congress; and
- Develop a mechanism by which existing sources of federal funding for HIV/AIDS will be made consistent with participation in the initiatives described in the strategy.