On this World AIDS Day, we both mourn the loss of those who have died from HIV/AIDS over the last 35 years and the lovers, friends and family left behind, as well as celebrate the ongoing successes in responding to HIV such as:
- being on the cusp of long acting HIV and PrEP medications,
- addressing health equity,
- increasing pride of those living with HIV or taking PrEP,
- and reducing shame and stigma that has been persistent from the beginning of the HIV Pandemic.
The Office of AIDS is focused on ending the epidemics, recognizing the intertwined relationship between HIV, STDs, and Hepatitis C. We hold a vision of sexual health and nurturing the health of those who use drugs. It is clear that a harm reduction approach is critical to helping those who have been judged negatively and not received optimum healthcare services because they are active drug users.
We are working to meet the federal goal of reducing new HIV infections by 75 percent in the next five years, and by 90 percent in the next ten years. This will require new and innovative approaches, not more of the same. It will require the collaboration of community organizations providing HIV services as well as those who provide other services, such as housing, SNAP, mental health, and employment assistance. We will continue to ensure access to medical care and medicines for all people living with HIV, as well as providing financial assistance for people who otherwise could not afford PrEP. Thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do!
My wish is that today, all people living with HIV have pride in being strong, resilient people, ready to help someone whose shame and despair is disrupting self-care and seeking medical care. For the men and women, both younger and older using PrEP, be proud of choosing to protect yourself and working to avoid HIV infection. I hope that more young gay men, especially young gay men of color protect themselves, including considering PrEP as an option.
The next 5 to 10 years will see even more progress, but let us not forget that the progress to date is due to the thousands of men and women, HIV positive and HIV negative who have been effected by HIV and contributed to ending the HIV Epidemic, and now working to end HIV and Hepatitis C, and to make a U-turn from the increasing rates of STDs to lowering the number of people with STDs over the next five years.
Thank you and please take time today to remember how much progress has been made from the emergence of a fatal disease to the more preventable infection and chronic, manageable condition for those living with HIV that it is today.