By Gail Barouh
Over the years LIAAC has found many ways to commemorate World AIDS day. We have participated in events and created events, doing education, outreach and testing. This year we are doing outreach and education work at Long Island DMV’s, shopping malls and bars. We also participated in the aids.gov project: “Facing AIDS.
But so much more has happened over the course of this year, I thought World AIDS day would be a good opportunity to reflect.
• We began the year with a new grant called the “Communities of Color”. This grant enabled us to create Project REACH to address the high rates of AIDS infections and other chronic diseases in the Black/African American and Hispanic communities. Because of this grant we are able to provide communities with education and outreach opportunities; Hep C, STI & HIV testing, as well as social media outreach.
• In June, the FDA approved the first over-the-counter oral HIV test. This enabled greater access to testing for those that can afford the cost of the test.
• In early July the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) released ”The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative,” a manual that reframes HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue for church leaders. The manual is the organizations response to the disproportionate impact that HIV/AIDS is having on the Black community and it outlines the role the Black Church can play.
• On July 16, 2012, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the anti-retroviral drug Truvada® which in combination with safer sex practices reduces the risk of sexually acquired HIV-1 infection in adults at high risk. It is the first agent to be approved for HIV prevention in uninfected adults.
• From July 22-27, Washington D.C. hosted the XIX (19th) International AIDS Conference. The event is the premier meeting for those working in the field of HIV/AIDS, as well as policymakers, people living with HIV/AIDS and others committed to ending the epidemic. It has not been held in the U.S. since 1990 because of policies restricting short-term entry of people living with HIV and AIDS into the U.S. The phenomenal event was well received and LIAAC was honored by being chosen as one of 40 out of almost 12,000 entries to make and oral poster presentation as a SAMHSA grantee.
• Scientists touted the “Berlin Patient” as being the only man to have been “cured” of HIV/AIDs. Although many explain it as a rare example of the right combination of the right things, it has created a sort of prototype that holds future promise.
• This year many more people realized that AIDS has become a disease for the aged as well as the young. It was projected that by 2015, half of all people with HIV in the U.S. will be aged 50 and older. LIAAC has responded to this with our “Seasoned Adult” program, testing and educating Long Island seniors.
It has been a very exciting and promising year in the field of HIV/AIDS. Movement and advances have been seen, not only on the scientific front, but also on the social front, as we try to ensure that medical treatment, advances and education is available to all. What has happened this year makes the World Aids Day official slogan “Getting to Zero” seem more possible than ever before. As long as we stay diligent in prevention and don’t become complacent, it’s nice to finally allow ourselves to think in terms of “cure,” something that was only a distant hope a few short years ago.