November 26, 2012

November 26, 2012
HIV/AIDS Advocacy: After the Election…

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Monday and I hope you had a very safe and great Thanksgiving weekend. It was another very busy weekend for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

The turkey is finished and the election is over. So now what do we as people living with HIV and AIDS (and our supporters) need to be doing?

Election day is over, the votes have been counted, and Barack Obama will remain our President for the next four years. While Democrats breathe a sigh of relief and Republicans shake their fists at the gods that have doomed them to four more years of a Democratic President, AIDS advocates, activists, and people living with HIV/AIDS are strategizing how to ensure that our President and Congress do what is necessary to bring an end to this epidemic both domestically and globally.

Over the past year and a half, legions advocates and activists took to the streets to fight for syringe exchange access, ADAP, women’s rights, parity in addressing the epidemic, adequate funding, fair drug pricing, and housing for people with living with HIV/AIDS as a structural intervention for both prevention and improved health outcomes.

While some of this advocacy was applauded, there were others who feared—and criticized—that our organizing would blow the election by raising these issues or appearing critical of our President and political leaders. But in this precarious political climate, where both major political parties managed to get nothing done, the country was heading toward a fiscal cliff because the federal appropriations process was rendered moot, and all the while completely ignoring the needs of poor people, standing idly by, or waiting patiently, simply wasn’t an option. Indeed, when the name of the (political) game was to pit the rich against the middle class and running a racially charged election, we had to be proactive, not reactive.

Now, with the casting of the last ballot and the outcome secure, I hope we can now regain our advocacy footing and work together to really get some things accomplished for PLWHAs. Our priorities moving forward include:

- Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act that meets the medication, care and treatment needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and where services reflect the communities they serve.

- Improved implementation of the National HIV/AIDS strategy based in evidence and inclusive of the needs of PLWHAs who are homeless, women and youth.

- Lift the federal ban on syringe exchange.

- Fully funding and properly structuring the Ryan White Care Act such that it protects those not covered by the Affordable Care Act.

- Fund research for a cure.

- Get Congress and the President to back away from the “fiscal cliff” and employ a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

While many of the issues that impact people living with HIV/AIDS were completely overlooked during the debates or this very long election season, they will not go unaddressed during the next for years. We will work together as a country and a global community to ensure that our voices are heard and our needs are met.

There are those who argue that staying under the political radar protects what we have, asking us not to “rock the boat.” But what good is protecting what we have if it is not what we need? We cannot afford to accept the status quo when we are so close making tremendous strides in getting to zero: zero infections, zero discrimination, zero stigma. Science is on our side, giving us monumental leaps in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and we are even looking at finding a cure.

Now is time for AIDS advocates, activists, and people living with HIV/AIDS to make our voices heard and push this Administration and Congress to do what we know can be done to improve and save the lives of those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Dab the AIDS Bear and I hope you will join us.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab