By Paul Kawata
NMAC’s mission is to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV end the epidemic in America. Health equity is about obtaining the highest level of health for all communities. To achieve the highest level of health in the fight against HIV, all people living with the virus should be retained in care and on treatment that reduces their viral load. Everyone who is sexually actives should be retained in care, regularly tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and educated or prescribed PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis).
Nobody should be forced on treatment, but in reality, NMAC is more concerned about the racial bias that stops or denies medications, healthcare or support services. Race is the big divide in America; is it any surprise that it is also the big divide in HIV?
We may be in the final stages in our fight against HIV. It looks hopeful in Boston, San Francisco and New York. But what about Oakland? What about parts of the South? What about East LA or Compton? Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled for Boston, San Francisco and New York; however, it’s not over until the same can be said for all communities.
To make that happen, we all need to be on the same page about health equity. The science is now unequivocal – people infected with HIV should begin treatment as soon as possible. Yet this message seems to have missed large segments of people living with HIV. How else can we explain why certain communities continue to see increases in new HIV infections while others have stabilized or fallen? Why do certain communities have shorter lifespans or a greater disease burden? Delays in seeking care and treatment should be the exception, not the norm. Your race, gender, gender identity, geography or who you love should not be the reason HIV goes untreated.
In the early days of the epidemic, the data was not clear about the best time to begin treatment or even what treatment to start. Don’t use those old excuses as a reason to wait. Don’t let the old fears that surrounded earlier generations of treatment be the reason to not stay in care or on therapy. Only by fighting for healthcare and treatment can we bring the promise of PEP, PrEP and TasP to all highly impacted communities.
I Pledge to Support Health Equity: Domestically, only 40% of Americans living with HIV have an undetectable viral load. It’s time to significantly decrease America’s viral load. At this time PEP, PrEP and TasP are the best options to extend the lives of people living with HIV and to stop the spread of the virus. We can achieve both of these goals and create a pathway to ending the epidemic.
Yours in the Struggle