Southern REACH

The South is home to just 37% of the total U.S. population, yet almost half (49%) of all new HIV diagnoses happen in Deep South states. Further, many people living with HIV face overwhelming challenges such as racism, poverty, lack of access to education, HIV-related stigma, homophobia, transphobia, fear of deportation, and lack of access to insurance and specialized HIV. These issues won’t be solved without strategic, effective advocacy that reaches far beyond constituencies historically focused on HIV.

That’s why the AIDS United Southern REACH (Regional Expansion of Access and Capacity to Address HIV/AIDS) grantees tackle things differently. The initiative works by building on the strengths of local leadership and community-based organizations. The initiative supports targeted policy and advocacy efforts driven by and for people affected by HIV in the South through strategic grants, technical assistance, and by creating a network of advocates dedicated to challenging HIV and the disparities and social injustices that further fuel the epidemic.

“It’s clear that we need to work together across movements to strengthen our collective efforts to advance equity and social justice. I believe that Southern REACH, a program that we have supported for over 10 years, is a galvanizing force in the region. We are proud to support those in the vanguard of the struggle, especially in the American South where discrimination and harmful laws and policies are so pervasive.”

— Darren Walker, president, Ford Foundation.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s economic crisis has had serious effects on the health of people living with or at risk for HIV and the services available to them. The AIDS United Puerto Rico portfolio keeps the needs of people living with and affected by HIV on the island front and center. Through technical assistance and support, this portfolio develops infrastructure, advocacy, and leadership necessary for a strong local response to the epidemic.

Recognizing that change requires strong collaboration, this portfolio has built close ties connecting advocates in Puerto Rico to the national HIV advocacy community. In 2016, AIDS United supported six advocates from Puerto Rico to attend AIDSWatch, a national HIV advocacy event in Washington, DC. Building on this experience, the delegation brought AIDSWatch back to the island, organizing a local watchito in San Juan.

“Empowerment is a vital tool. Through AIDSWatch, we have built solidarity and a coalition of leaders in Puerto Rico. We strongly believe that bringing AIDSWatch to Puerto Rico is essential in mobilizing our local legislators to support funding and policies necessary to end the epidemic.”

— Anselmo Fonseca, President/Founder, Pacientes de Sida pro Política Sana

Our Policy & Advocacy Leadership

Not content to rest on its laurels as the nation’s largest coalition of community–based HIV organizations, in 2016 AIDS United’s Public Policy Committee (PPC) grew even larger and more diverse. Boasting 42 different member organizations, the PPC brought a broad range of experiences and resources to the table in 2016, representing a demographically and geographically varied cross-section of communities. With a strong presence from the South, Midwest, and both Coasts, the PPC was more representative of the U.S. HIV community than ever before.

Throughout 2016, AIDS United’s policy team provided strong and persistent advocacy to lead coalition efforts that would not only preserve, but expand federal support for HIV programs and protect the gains achieved by the Affordable Care Act.

In 2016, we were named the “Best National HIV Advocacy Program” by Healthline!

“If we are to achieve our goal of ending the AIDS epidemic, we have to use the power of our collective voices to send an unambiguous message to policymakers in Washington DC and around the country that we have no time to waste and we cannot let this opportunity slip between our fingers because of partisan politics. That’s the power of the Public Policy Committee.”

— Craig E. Thompson, Executive Director, AIDS Project Los Angeles

AIDSWatch 2016

Stories really do make all the difference, whether swaying a legislator, tackling HIV-related stigma, addressing bigotry, or raising awareness. Few events are better at capturing the power, energy, and stories of the HIV community than AIDSWatch. This year, 370 advocates— representing 35 U.S. states, DC, and Puerto Rico—met with more than 240 Congressional Offices, with over 70 meetings occurring directly with the elected member, to share their stories and educate Congress about critical issues to the HIV community.

AIDSWatch is sponsored by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and is implemented as a partnership between AIDS United, the Treatment Access Expansion Project, and the US People Living With HIV Caucus.

“The work that AIDSWatch does to elevate the voices of people living with and affected by HIV is crucial, and very much aligned with Elizabeth Taylor’s passionate approach. She used her enormous platform to advocate for those whose voices were being ignored, just as AIDSWatch is doing today,”

— Joel Goldman, Managing Director Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Check out additional AIDSWatch photos HERE

2016 ELECTIONS – Voting is HIV Advocacy!

Using the vibrant, informative, and motivating Live, Vote, Thrive campaign, AIDS United encouraged people living with and affected by HIV to become better informed and more engaged in the political process during this pivotal election year.

"The differences between the candidates are real and so will be the consequences of this election. It’s your life and it’s your vote. Use it as if your life depended on it, because it may,” said Ronald Johnson, VP of policy and advocacy.

Through the Live, Vote, Thrive Elections Center, voters accessed in-depth and user-friendly overviews of each presidential candidate’s positions on issues related to HIV, analysis of party platforms, and basic voting information. AIDS service providers could find tips on how to best engage in the electoral process as a not-for-profit organization.

After the election, AIDS United joined with the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), NMAC, and the National Council of STD Directors to hold a community-wide meeting to discuss the impact of the results and its implications for the federal response to HIV.

“On Tuesday, America made a decision that will force HIV advocates to confront some new and unexpected challenges. These challenges may be daunting, but they will not be insurmountable. We know this because we have been here before. And because of this, we know that we can succeed. Our roles as advocates for policies and rights are needed now more than ever.”