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Can I Count On You?

Can I count on your support to ensure the Ryan White program stays funded for the next few years, as we work out the details of Affordable Care Act implementation? Can I count on you to do everything in your power to repeal HIV criminalization laws, because they unfairly target and stigmatize people living with HIV? These are the questions I want every legislator in Congress to look me in the eyes and answer.

That’s why I’m going to AIDSWatch 2016 and why, for the third year in a row, the US People Living with HIV Caucus is proud to serve as a lead organizing partner for AIDSWatch, an annual gathering which draws hundreds of people living with HIV and allies to advocate with federal legislators on issues that matter to us.

We believe AIDSWatch is important because people with HIV should always be part of defining and articulating the solutions that work for us. The Denver Principles call for people with HIV/AIDS to be involved at every level of decision-making, defining policies, programs, and service delivery priorities. Who better to educate our members of Congress about critical issues that affect us? Politics is always personal. We understand and can talk about issues: from the importance of providing housing for people with HIV, the essential access to quality care and treatment provided through the Ryan White program, and repealing laws that criminalize HIV because they institutionalize stigma and discrimination – on a deeply personal level.

Although it is 2015, HIV stigma is alive and well. And, in the context of the domestic epidemic today, HIV stigma is compounded by racism, homophobia, and a rising tide of vitriol directed at women’s rights. Anti-immigrant sentiment and transphobia have permeated recent election cycles. We have new members of Congress who know little about the history of the HIV epidemic or how science has advanced, and need to be educated about the possible impact of their decisions. Sharing our stories, in the context of clear advocacy demands, has the potential to change hearts and minds.

It can feel intimidating to travel all the way to Washington DC and think about meeting with elected officials to talk to them about what needs to change. But the Caucus is here to support you. This year, we’ll host a webinar to familiarize AIDSWatch attendees with policy demands, as well as a reception to welcome people living with HIV to AIDSWatch. And if you haven’t ever spoken to an elected official, we can introduce you to a mentor or buddy, to help you prepare.

This year, we hope to see a growing contingent of people with HIV from throughout the US fired up and ready to go! We especially hope to see some newer advocates come forward. Register for AIDSWatch today!


Posted By: Naina Khanna, US People Living with HIV Caucus Steering Committee Member, and AIDS United Trustee - Monday, November 16, 2015

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