The first day of June marked the beginning of the 21st annual AIDS Education Month, a month of AIDS awareness activities and events hosted by WWAV Affiliate Philadelphia FIGHT that challenges us to imagine a world without AIDS and what we would need to get there in our lifetime. A Philly based comprehensive AIDS service organization, Philadelphia FIGHT’s mission is to provide state-of-the art, culturally competent primary care to low income members of the community, HIV specialty care, consumer education, advocacy, social services, and outreach to people living with HIV and those who are at high risk, including family members, communities with high rates of HIV, formerly incarcerated persons, and young people at risk, along with access to the most advanced clinical research in HIV treatment and prevention. The organization runs this annual campaign in order to raise awareness and combat stigma around the disease, as well as to find ways to bring an end to AIDS and it’s continued impact in Philly and beyond.
What was once a death sentence is now as potentially manageable as with many other chronic illness with adequate access to medication. In the 35 or so years since HIV/AIDS first hit public consciousness, there have been many strides made towards providing effective prevention and treatment and decreasing the stigma associated with contracting HIV/AIDS. In 2010, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the first comprehensive plan to reduce HIV transmission and improve health outcomes for those living with HIV/AIDS, which includes reducing health disparities between those living with the illness. This Strategy is set to be updated this year to set goals through 2020, with outreach efforts to include community input that took place around the country throughout the month of May.
It almost goes without saying that despite this progress, disparities still exist in the diagnosis, treatment, and general public perception of HIV/AIDS. An estimated one million people in the United States are still living with HIV, and 1 in 5 don’t know their status. As of 2013, Louisiana ranked 3rd in the nation for HIV cases, with New Orleans and Baton Rouge ranking 2nd and 4th among large metropolitan areas for HIV cases, respectively (Louisiana also ranks 3rd highest in AIDS cases). Across the state, African Americans are still disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Despite making up only 32% of the state population, they accounted for 70% of new HIV diagnoses in 2013. When we look at the intersection of gender and race, we see that nationally Black women account for 68% of new cases of HIV among women, with HIV/AIDS related deaths now being the leading cause of death among Black women ages 25-34.
Catch up on updates for AIDS Awareness month each week this June from Women With A Vision! For more information on events, visit http://www.fight.org/.