The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have helped bring about much of the tremendous progress in understanding and treating HIV, ranging from increasing HIV awareness, to fighting HIV-related discrimination, to volunteering for cutting-edge research. This legacy of community-based leadership is one to note on this 5th Annual National Gay Men’s HIV/Awareness Day.
In 2010, President Obama released the nation’s first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which called for aligning resources where HIV is most concentrated, and implementing evidence-based, high-impact interventions to reduce new HIV infections, improving HIV-related health outcomes, and reducing HIV-related disparities. The Strategy has focused Federal, State, and local efforts on a combination prevention approach for gay men and other populations at high risk, including increasing HIV testing and HIV treatment, because studies demonstrate that increasing diagnosis rates and reducing viral loads will significantly reduce new HIV infections in disproportionately affected communities.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy also calls for addressing stigma and discrimination as part of a comprehensive response to the HIV epidemic. In keeping with the goals of the Strategy, the Department of Justice has taken steps to enforce civil rights laws that protect the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS, and has launched a website dedicated to fighting discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.
In addition to the Strategy, the Affordable Care Act will ensure more Americans have access to affordable, high-quality health insurance and make it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against anyone with a pre-existing condition like HIV. These changes will help gay men and other disproportionately affected populations get the coverage they need to receive comprehensive care.
This is a transformative time with regards to addressing HIV among gay men: we have made tremendous progress in aligning resources with the epidemic, increasing access to care, and addressing additional factors that contribute to HIV risk.
To fully realize the potential of these accomplishments, and to continue to fight the HIV epidemic, it will take shared commitment and leadership among Federal, State and local governments, community members, LGBT leadership organizations, and other private and public organizations. Today is a day where we recognize how far we’ve come since the early days of the epidemic while also acknowledging that there is more work to do. Through this collective effort, we will realize the goal of an AIDS-free generation.
Dr. Grant Colfax is Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy