Groups Across U.S. Want AIDS to Become a High Priority

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It’s Pride Month, and executive directors from 34 national LGBT and HIV/AIDS groups formally committed themselves on June 3 to prioritizing the fight against HIV.

In a joint letter from them, the directors call upon everyone from policy makers to everyday donors to the cause to pick up pitchforks and get excited.

“Over the last 30 years, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has seen great strides in the movement for full equality. Much of this success is the result of a concerted movement, which was galvanized in response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s,” the letter starts, then lists victories over past decades. “Unfortunately, our community hasn't maintained the same momentum in our fight against HIV.”

According to the letter: MSM accounted for more than 63 percent of new HIV infections in 2010.

“We are at an important crossroad in our fight against HIV,” said National Minority AIDS Council Executive Director Paul Kawata.  “The evidence behind treatment as prevention, and expansions in health care coverage that will accompany implementation of the Affordable Care Act, have provided a unique opportunity to end this epidemic, which has ravaged our community for more than three decades.”

The only signatory hailing from South Florida, Pridelines Youth Services’ Victor Diaz-Herman, the executive director, said HIV remains a top priority for his organization.

“We were one of South Florida’s first dedicated testing sites,” Diaz-Herman said. “Therefore we’re honored to be a part of this campaign to re-engage our community on both a local and national level in an effort to see an aids free generation.”

The entire letter and accompanying video can be viewed online here: www.wethelgbt.org.

Read the letter!

We the LGBT

Over the last 30 years, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has seen great strides in the movement for full equality. Much of this success is the result of a concerted movement, which was galvanized in response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

In the decades since, our movement has seen incredible victories. Today, twenty-one states and Washington, DC, have implemented nondiscrimination laws in employment to protect LGBT employees. Eighteen states allow gay couples to adopt children. Sixteen states have passed legislation protecting LGBT students from discrimination, with another fifteen states specifically protecting LGBT students from bullying. Gays and lesbians can now serve openly in the military and more than half of all Americans support marriage equality, including the first-ever sitting president.

Unfortunately, our community hasn't maintained the same momentum in our fight against HIV. Gay and bisexual men recently accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections and perhaps most concerning is the 22% increase among those between 13 and 24 years old. Each day, more than eighty gay and bisexual men become infected with HIV in the United States. These trends are even more pronounced among gay and bisexual men of color, with young black gay and bisexual men having a higher rate of HIV infection than any other population in this country. While we don't have enough data on transgender populations, studies show that 28% of transgender women are HIV positive in the United States, with rates over 50% for African American transgender women.

One in five gay and bisexual men are living with HIV in the United States. Despite these alarming statistics, which have galvanized our community in the past, the HIV epidemic has seemed to fall by the wayside. Many in our community have simply stopped talking about the issue. This must change.

We, the undersigned, are committed to being part of this change and urge the entire community to join us in this fight.

  • If you are a policy maker, fight to protect and expand HIV treatment and prevention programming and fight to stop HIV criminalization at the federal, state and local level.
  • If you are an LGBT organization, be sure to speak to your constituents about the continued toll this epidemic has on our community.
  • If you're an LGBT donor, support causes that support the health of the community.
  • And, get tested, know your status, and join the fight to end this epidemic.
  • Science and policy have aligned like never before to make it possible to envision an AIDS-free generation. That vision will not be realized without addressing the persistent and disparate impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Today, we commit to ending this epidemic and protecting the health of our community. We urge you to join us in this effort.

    Signed,

    Michael Adams, SAGE

    Brett Andrews, Positive Resource Center

    Selisse Berry, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

    Rea Carey, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

    Rudolph H. Carn, NAESM, Inc.

    Kevin M. Cathcart, Lambda Legal

    Bernard Cherkasov, Equality Illinois

    Masen Davis, Transgender Law Center

    Victor E. Diaz-Herman, Pridelines Youth Services

    Earl Fowlkes, Center For Black Equity

    Antonio David Garcia, Affirmations

    Marjorie Hill, Gay Men's Health Crisis

    Jody Huckaby, PFLAG National

    Rebecca Isaacs, Equality Federation

    Lorri L. Jean, LA Gay and Lesbian Community Center

    Paul Kawata, National Minority AIDS Council

    Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights

    Lorraine Langlois, Metro Wellness & Community Centers

    Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, National Black Justice Coalition

    Curtis Lipscomb, Kick – The Agency for LGBT African Americans

    Carlos Martinez, The Center/GLBT Community Center of Colorado

    Monica Meyer, OutFront Minnesota

    Candice Nichols, The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada

    Lisa Perry-Wood, Family Equality Council

    Terry Stone, CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

    Kara Suffredini, MassEquality

    Fred Swanson, Gay City Health Project

    Lee Swislow, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

    Glennda Testone, The NYC LGBT Community Center

    Rachel B. Tiven, Immigration Equality

    Lance Toma, Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center

    Modesto Tico Valle, Center on Halsted

    Hector Vargas, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality

    Phill Wilson, Black AIDS Institute

    Chuck Wolfe, Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute

    Toni Young, Community Education Group


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