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World AIDS Day: The Time to Act is Now

December 1 marked World AIDS Day, a time to remember and honor those who have died as a result of AIDS and HIV infection, commemorate the progress made in the fight against the AIDS epidemic, and emphasize the need for continued efforts in reaching goals of an AIDS-Free generation. The United States’ theme, The Time to Act Is Now, recognizes the critical moment we’ve reached. The HIV epidemic in the United States began with fear around an inexplicable illness and discrimination towards those impacted. Living with HIV was once seen as a death sentence. Through medical innovation, policy change, and the dedication of advocates, people living with HIV can now live full lives. Despite this progress, significant work lies ahead. In the United States, 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and only 30% of these people have reached viral suppression. There are stark disparities in the burden of HIV in certain communities and discriminatory practices still threaten the lives of all people living with HIV. From passionate statements during White House events to landmark actions by politicians across the country, World AIDS Day has made it clear - the time to act is now.

The White House World AIDS Day 2015 event embodied the theme and highlighted the progress and dedication of federal agencies towards ending the AIDS epidemic. Douglas Brooks, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, highlighted the release of the Federal Action Plan (FAP) for the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy. A hallmark feature of the FAP is a scale-up of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), ensuring that it is more accessible to the more than one million adults at substantial risk for HIV. This work expanding prevention efforts is complemented by a continued commitment to linkage to care; ensuring that people living with HIV move successfully along the HIV care continuum. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Disease, made strong statements reminding the audience that current scientific breakthroughs have made an end to the epidemic a real possibility. Now, there is “no excuse for inaction.” A commitment to principles of social justice as well as the engagement of those affected most is needed to ensure these breakthroughs are both high impact and far reaching.

Several presidential candidates have issued statements related to World AIDS Day. Marco Rubio released a statement through the Christian Post praising the success of programs such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) in responding to the critical needs of people living with HIV in the United States and throughout the world. Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders penned a statement focused on the barriers that drug affordability creates. In one of the richest nations in the world, many people cannot get the lifesaving medication they need because the medicine is unaffordable. Hilary Clinton’s campaign shared a video through twitter on her work addressing the international AIDS epidemic followed by a personal tweet on the need for continued investments in research and access to lifesaving drugs.

World AIDS Day, above all, is a day for collective action. Policy makers, advocates, and the medical community are acting! Mayor Muriel Bowser, in partnership with DC Appleseed, committed Washington, D.C. to the federal government’s World AIDS Day theme: The Time to Act is Now, by developing a plan to end the HIV epidemic in the city. In New York state and city, Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio made statements committing increased funding to reduce new HIV infections and expand services for people living with HIV. World AIDS Day also marked Senator Coons’ (D-DE) introduction of S. 2336, a bill to modernize laws, and eliminate discrimination towards people living with HIV. As Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Kenneth Cole, CEO of amfAR, highlighted in an op-ed to CNN, now is not the time back down. The next five years provide a fragile window of opportunity to fast-track the response and end the HIV epidemic. Significant gains have been made, and now more than ever is the time for drastic acceleration of efforts to maintain this progress and push toward an AIDS-free generation. This requires unity among the advocacy community to reject funding cuts that would paralyze lifesaving HIV interventions and support programs that promote the wellbeing of people living with HIV in the United States and abroad.

Posted By: AIDS United Policy Department - Thursday, December 03, 2015

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