Light at the End of the Tunnel

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tunnelThe evidence on AIDS has never been more compelling or more exciting. As a result of research breakthroughs, including proof that antiretroviral therapy reduces the risk of HIV transmission by 96%, we now have the tools to lay the foundation for the end of the epidemic. In the quest to end AIDS, no group has more at stake than Black America, which accounts for less than 14% of the U.S. population but for 44% of new HIV infections.

But ending AIDS won’t happen with rhetoric. It requires sound action, national solidarity, the active involvement of those most affected, a commitment to results, and a willingness to let evidence be our guide.

This latest report by the Black AIDS Institute is dedicated to belief that AIDS can be ended. It outlines a five-year plan for concrete action to accelerate the end of AIDS, assigning clear roles and responsibilities and establishing ambitious yet achievable targets. It also describes what the Black AIDS Institute itself is doing to contribute to the changes that are needed.

To end AIDS in the U.S., we will need to build on the most important single piece of legislation ever enacted for people living with HIV – the Affordable Care Act. By offering genuine health care access to more than 30 million people who are currently uninsured, the Affordable Care Act has the potential to help close critical gaps in the HIV treatment continuum. But the Act needs to be fully implemented, and already obstacles have emerged. Black America needs to mobilize to ensure that decision-makers at the state and federal level don’t succeed in rolling back this historic advance.

A lot else will need to change, as well, including within Black America itself. Too often, people living with HIV don’t use the services that are available, frequently because of fear or because they aren’t fully aware of the powerful benefits of existing therapies. To build treatment demand and to combat HIV stigma and discrimination, all people living with HIV need to come out.

To end AIDS, we’ll need a strong, vibrant community infrastructure. At present, though, at a time when biomedical advances have transformed the AIDS fight, too few Black organizations have expertise on biomedical issues. Black-serving community organizations need to re-tool to remain relevant, building their capacity to influence health care delivery and to promote an integrated approach that links behavioral and biomedical interventions.

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