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World AIDS Day: A Call for Collective Action

World AIDS Day is December 1st; it’s a day when we stand worldwide to fight HIV, remember those we love who passed away and pray and stand by those still living with HIV/AIDS. It’s also a day to plan—to strategize about how to get resources. We need to raise awareness, promote prevention, and ensure testing and treatment, if necessary.

Reflection, remembrance, solidarity and action— for me, that’s what World AIDS Day is about.

Since 2005 I have been active in the fight to end the spread of HIV. I have met so many wonderful people in the field and have also had to say goodbye to some of them too.

Each year, I find it useful to head over to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website to check out the “latest” statistics regarding HIV/AIDS in America. You can learn that:

  • Young people aged 13–29 accounted for 39% of all new HIV infections
  • Black women accounted for 30% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks and 85% black women with HIV acquired it through heterosexual sex.
  • The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.

It is concerning to me that while HIV/AIDS continues to be a problem in the United States less resources are being provided to combat it. Thinking back to last year’s World’s AIDS Day, it is a sad irony that the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health closed the HIV Prevention Educator Training Program the day before the annual event.

This year another health department discovered that they won’t be receiving the dollars they need to implement an HIV prevention program. Funding streams are being redirected in ways that are changing how people living with HIV/AIDS are receiving care.

Agencies throughout the country and in CT that serve people living with HIV/AIDS are just flat out closing. Funds to help pay for meds, housing and other services are being restructured or cut. The implications of this are severe.

I won’t lie— I’m afraid for the people who’ve counted on these services to manage their lives.

I read a lot of articles about how new infections are less than what they used to be. This is good, but it’s no reason to be complacent. This movement to cut the funding of HIV prevention programs could spell disaster for CT residents.

If 1 in 5 people are unaware of their infection and efforts to promote safer sex practices and testing are cut, then it stands to reason we’re setting ourselves up for increased infections. But if treatment and other supportive service monies suffer a continuum of cuts, how will we care for newly infected people?

In a nutshell, more resources are needed to end the spread of HIV. Of course, money is on the top of that list, to fund PREVENTION, treatment, support and continued research. More than money is needed though—we need the same consistent, collective energy that was harnessed at the beginning of the epidemic. We can’t expect to get to “Zero New Infections” or to have an “HIV-free generation” without increased awareness, advocacy, action and urgency. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to make this happen right now.
What will you do?

Stephanye Clarke is a mom, activist and change agent in her own right. You can connect with Stephanye on Twitter or Facebook.

Image credit iStock Photos / Edstock

Health Justice CT provides a public forum for conversations, ideas and collective action. The opinion expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of HealthJusticeCT or our funder.

 

About Stephanye Clarke

Stephanye Clarke is a mom, activist and change agent in her own right. You can connect with Stephanye on Twitter or Facebook. Learn more about Stephanye here.

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