Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Don't overlook
AIDS funding issues


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As Pride Month rolls along, anticipation is growing for the upcoming parade in San Francisco and, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court's expected decisions in two same-sex marriage cases. But while celebrating the LGBT community should not overlook critical issues that remain for HIV/AIDS funding, both locally and nationally, and should use the exposure that June brings to call attention to the matter.

Last week, to kick off Pride Month, 35 LGBT and HIV advocacy groups issued a joint letter committing themselves and their organizations to re-engaging the broader LGBT community in the fight against HIV.

"Over the last 30 years the [LGBT] community has seen great strides in the movement for full equality," the letter states in part. "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. ... Unfortunately, our community hasn't maintained the same momentum in our fights against HIV. ... Each day, more than 80 gay and bisexual men become infected 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."

Helpful events throughout the year show that many people in the Bay Area are paying attention. More than 2,700 bicyclists and volunteers just completed the annual AIDS LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which raised a record $14.2 million for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Facebook postings by some of the riders put a face on their activism and helped raise awareness (and funds).

Those living with the disease need help from elected officials too. While San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee did propose $4 million to backfill federal cuts to local HIV/AIDS services in his recent budget plan, there remains a $3 million shortfall. Supervisor Scott Wiener has said that his top priority is to secure those funds. There are, as Wiener noted in our story last week, many competing entities for that money.

Numerous studies over the years have shown that when people living with HIV/AIDS are able to adhere to medication regimens, they can achieve an undetectable viral load level and remain in good health. But those medications are costly, which is why the AIDS Drug Assistance Program is so vital. Some PWAs are struggling to pay monthly bills or survive on other types of services that various agencies provide. It is vital that these programs remain operating, particularly those that serve people of color and transgender people.

Our community can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can advocate for marriage equality and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while supporting HIV prevention programs that work and fighting for resources to provide medical services. We must not forget that AIDS is still a very real part of the LGBT community, and we must work to maintain services in this age of federal sequestration and other cuts.



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