December 01, 2017
Washington — Whitman-Walker Health is glad that the President has stated that his Administration “reaffirm[s] our ongoing commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat.” However, to realize that goal, the Administration should follow up these words with actions.
First, although we agree with the President that public-private partnerships have been critical to the successes to date, and will remain very important in the quest to end HIV, the Federal Government’s financial commitment, and its leadership, have been absolutely vital to breakthroughs in treatment and advances in prevention. Without the Federal Government’s continued commitment to funding research; medical care and supportive services for people living with HIV; and major prevention initiatives, the promise of recent advances may not be realized.
Second, the fight to eliminate the HIV epidemic depends in large part on continuing – and, in fact, expanding – access to high-quality, affordable health care for all. We are very concerned that reductions in Medicaid, Medicare, health insurance exchanges, and other federal and joint federal-state supports for health care will set back our efforts.
Third, although the President appropriately acknowledged the importance of protecting women in sub-Saharan African nations who are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, his proclamation made no mention of those persons who continue to bear the brunt of HIV in this country: people of color, gay and bisexual men, and transgender women. The Administration should clearly and categorically commit to addressing the epidemics that continue to ravage those populations.
Finally, as the Federal Government recognized three decades ago, in the 1988 Report of the Presidential Commission on the AIDS Epidemic, caring for people living with HIV, encouraging people at risk of HIV to be tested and to engage in care, and effectively implementing HIV prevention in communities at risk, requires a commitment to fight stigma and discrimination. Eliminating the epidemic requires the Federal Government, as well as state and local governments, to fight not only HIV discrimination itself, but also the stigma and discrimination that disempower those at particular risk: people of color and recent immigrants, gay and bisexual men, and transgender persons. Waning commitment to civil rights, to combatting racism, and to fair and respectful treatment of immigrants, will undercut the fight against HIV.
About Whitman-Walker Health
Established in 1978, Whitman-Walker Health is a non-profit, federally qualified community health center serving the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. For almost 40 years, Whitman-Walker staff have provided stigma-free and vital healthcare to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities of Greater Washington, as well to those living with or affected by HIV; and to individuals who cannot afford to pay or feel uncomfortable in other healthcare settings. In the 1980s, Whitman-Walker took the lead in fighting the AIDS epidemic, and its facilities on 14th Street served as both literal and symbolic centers in efforts to care for those living with and dying from the disease, as well as centers of research and advocacy on their behalf. Through its four locations in the district, Whitman-Walker annually serves over 18,000 of Greater Washington’s residents with medical care, dental care, mental health and addiction services, legal services, youth programming and many other wellness and support services.
Abby Paige FentonAFenton@whitman-walker.org
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