Dear Elected Official:
The HIV community is no stranger to protests. From our formation in the early 1980s, our progress has depended upon our willingness to put our bodies and livelihoods on the line to stand up to the unjust and discriminatory systems that neglect us.
The progress we have made in fighting the HIV epidemic would not be possible without HIV advocates taking to the streets and screaming their truth to those in power. We owe a great debt to the titans of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s whose example and leadership taught us so much about the need for direct action and civil disobedience.
As protests currently occur throughout the country, AIDS United’s Public Policy Council must state publicly and unequivocally that we are in solidarity with all of those who protest violent and oppressive systems. We are also committed to infusing racial justice throughout all our work. We do so because we know it is the only way we can end the HIV epidemic in the United States.
Let us be clear: There is nothing deficient about Black and Brown bodies.
And yet, those of us who are Black and Brown are more likely to die from medical conditions as different as childbirth and heart disease. There is nothing specific about Black bodies that make us more susceptible to HIV, and yet nearly half the new HIV diagnoses in the United States are among Black people.
The problem is neither medical nor biological. It is sociological. The problem is white supremacy.
We have seen white supremacy in action in dramatic ways recently with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade. We have also seen white supremacy play out in less obvious ways recently, too, with the COVID-19 death rate among Black communities far outpacing other communities.
White supremacy is all around us, and it is taxing.
The mission of AIDS United and our Public Policy Council is to end the HIV epidemic in the United States. We cannot achieve that without prioritizing the health and well-being of Black people. We also know that we cannot achieve that without major shifts in our justice system.
AIDS United, in partnership with the ACT NOW: END AIDS Coalition, released in 2018 a community-driven plan to end the HIV epidemic. That document called for significant criminal justice reforms, including:
• Repealing laws that criminalize HIV and other infectious diseases.
• Decriminalizing sex work.
• Undoing the harassment and criminalization of immigrant communities.
• Minimizing criminal justice involvement for people who use drugs.
• Reducing mass incarceration.
• Eliminating both mandatory minimums for drug offenses and cash bail.
• Removing legal barriers to accessing public housing and other social benefits for individuals with past drug convictions.
At the foundation of each of these policy proposals is a thorough commitment to valuing Black lives. These concrete proposals will go a long way toward making our communities safer and ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.
We urge you — whether you are the mayor of a small town, a member of Congress or the President of the United States — to enact these policies. We also call on you to enact all policy through a racial justice and equity lens.
AIDS United’s Public Policy Council joins our voice with the current generation of civil rights champions. We join the calls for justice for the victims of systemic, racist violence in the United States. We join with all those who are rejecting an abusive and dehumanizing criminal justice system that for too long has targeted Black and Brown communities. Will you join us?
Jesse Milan Jr., President & CEO
The AIDS United Public Policy Council:
AIDS Action/Fenway Health
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
American Academy of HIV Medicine
Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
Black AIDS Institute
Black Women’s Health Imperative
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
Careteam+ Family Health
Cascade AIDS Project/Prism Health
Cempa Community Care
Center for HIV Law & Policy
Community Education Group
Delaware HIV Consortium
Desert AIDS Project
God’s Love We Deliver
Harm Reduction Coalition
Howard Brown Health
Intercambios Puerto Rico
Latino Commission on AIDS
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
Los Angeles LGBT Center
Metro Inclusive Health
My Brother’s Keeper, Inc.
National Alliance for HIV Education and Workforce Development
National Black Justice Coalition
North Carolina AIDS Action Network
Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund
Positive Women’s Network – USA
Prevention Access Campaign
Prism Health North Texas
Puerto Rico Community Network for Clinical Services, Research, and Health Advancement
San Francisco AIDS Foundation
Southern AIDS Coalition
Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project
Treatment Access Expansion Project
Treatment Action Group
Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services
Us Helping Us, People Into Living