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25th Anniversary AIDSWatch Breaks Records & Sets Tone for 2018

Over the last 25 years of progress and of struggle in the fight to end the AIDS epidemic, AIDSWatch has been a constant—a yearly opportunity to gather together as a grassroots community and speak truth to power on Capitol Hill with HIV advocates from all across the country. And on this year, the year marking the 25th anniversary of AIDSWatch, the spirit and fire of the HIV advocacy community stretched farther and shone brighter than it ever had before. On March 26th and 27th, 550 HIV advocates from a record-breaking 36 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, attended more meetings with more Congressional offices than ever before. Many of the more than 300 Congressional offices that were visited as a part of AIDSWatch open their doors each year for the occasion and already have strong relationships with HIV advocates, but there were also plenty of offices who had never taken part in the nation’s largest annual HIV/AIDS advocacy event.

Regardless of the familiarity of the office with our issues and our advocates, AIDSWatch attendees spent their time on the Hill imparting to members of Congress and their staff the policy changes and resources needed to end the HIV epidemic, and to ask for protections to those programs essential to the health and wellbeing of people living with and affected by HIV. During their meetings, participants spoke to the Congressional offices about the need to expand access to care for people living with HIV, federal investment in HIV prevention, treatment, housing and research, the protection of civil rights, the promotion of comprehensive sexuality health education, the needs of the transgender community and people who inject drugs, the preservation of the 340B Drug Pricing program, and the need for support for people living with HIV in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

On the opening day of AIDSWatch, attendees heard remarks from AIDS United CEO Jesse Milan, Jr., Obama administration Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy Jeffrey Crowley and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation’s Joel Goldman on the tremendous work that has been done over the past 25 years in the fight to end the AIDS epidemic and the work that we must do in the future. Along with those speakers, an incredible panel of LGBT and HIV positive elected officials including Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims, former New York State Senator Thomas Duane, and San Francisco Health Commissioner Cecilia Chung spoke to attendees about their experiences in office and what they can do to ensure more LGBT and HIV positive people serve in government.

At the same time AIDSWatch meetings were taking place on Capitol Hill, a group of 180 HIV advocates were mobilizing in Albany for the 1st official AIDSWatch at Home action, fighting for improved access to care and housing assistance for New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV. As a result of their advocacy, a low-income housing assistance program for people living with HIV has expanded across the entire state and a series of devastating health care budget cuts were largely avoided.

For more coverage of this year’s AIDSWatch, check out our first AIDSWatch attendee blog from PWN-USA’s Mary Jane Maestas here, and keep an eye out for more blogs in the future.

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, April 06, 2018

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