The start of a new year offers us an opportunity to reflect on the year that was, and set our intentions for the year ahead. The dawn of a new decade, especially, feels like a good a time as any to make bold, optimistic commitments that speak to the best of human ingenuity — like how this will be the decade we end HIV.
During the early days of the crisis, when our friends and loved ones were ripped from our lives practically overnight, few of us could realistically predict how far we’ve come today. Life, as we’ve come to understand, can often be unfair. Even cruel. Too many of our brothers and sisters are thrust into a world that feels stacked against them. It is our job to stand up for what’s right, push back against injustice, and work without apathy toward a brighter future.
We can’t understate the miraculous progress we have made in the fight against HIV. What was once a death sentence is now a manageable condition. With PrEP, we now are able to effectively prevent HIV. . But now is not the time to declare victory and lose our determination, not when we’re so close to the finish line.
There are still more than a million people living with HIV in the United States today. Our Black, Latinx, and transgender communities are disproportionately affected, and geographic regions like the South are, in many ways, the new face of HIV. Too many lack access to the care and treatment they need to survive, and stigma based on prejudice and untruths still persist. This is the work that remains incomplete. It is our job, with the memory of all who came before us, to reach for our full potential and finish the fight.
For their part, the current Administration announced an ambitious plan earlier this year to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. And for all our policy disagreements, of which there are many, it is important to understand that while this goal will require hard work, it is achievable and the right thing to do.
Under the plan, states and jurisdictions with the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses are directed to develop and implement their own strategies to meet the needs of their communities and connect the vulnerable to the proper prevention and treatment services. This will call for significant investments and political will, not the least of which is congressional funding.
For months, public health experts and advocates have called on our elected officials to do the right thing and dedicate new resources to turn this plan into action. In the nick of time, days before Christmas, Republicans and Democrats came together in a rare expression of bipartisan agreement to fund the government for the full fiscal year, and with it, to begin implementing this audacious strategy to end HIV once and for all within the decade. With the president’s signature, that work will soon begin in earnest.
Make no mistake, the pace of progress will at times be frustratingly slow, and setbacks will occur. But we will meet these challenges head on. It’s this kind of perseverance that kept our brave champions, from Ryan White to Elizabeth Taylor, pushing onward even when prospects were dim or hope was running low. It’s what has helped us realize medical breakthroughs which today mean that those living with HIV are able to lead normal lives, and those at risk have access to prevention services.
This is our story. This is our decade. It’s time to carry that baton across the finish line. It’s time to end HIV.
This article was written by Michael Ruppal, executive director of The AIDS Institute. AIDS United (AU), NASTAD, the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), NMAC, and The AIDS Institute (TAI) are national non-partisan, non-profit organizations who formed the Partnership to End HIV, STDs, and Hepatitis in order to secure the necessary rights, resources, and services for those affected by the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis epidemics through sound policies and appropriations at the federal level. Learn more at www.endhivstdhep.org.