Pick me! Pick H.I.V.!
By: Maria Lawrynowicz
Supervised by: Gilbert Mallais
An end to HIV just screams prestige… awards… maybe even a Nobel prize… (not to mention, a cure for 27.3 million people currently known to be infected with HIV), so why aren’t more world leaders and researchers scrambling for this to become a reality? As so aptly stated by the author of R.I.P. HIV, Regan Hofmann, the real issue is not, “CAN we end AIDS?, but WILL we end AIDS?” With current research on neutralizing antibodies and CCR5 receptor inhibitors, scientists are getting closer to figuring out how to stop this disease, but how to move forward? According to Michel Sidibe, keynote speaker at the UNAIDS conference in Rome, “history will judge us not by our scientific breakthroughs, but how we apply them” and this is the point where we are today. It seems that the current issue boils down to two main points: lack of funding to start the end of HIV and lack of advocacy to get this funding. With so many philanthropic organization to donate to, HIV+ individuals need to let people know WHY to PICK their cause and HOW their money will make a difference.
R.I.P. HIV : Regan Hofmann
POZ magazine, Oct. 2011
Hofmann divides the steps needed to defeat HIV into 7 points (as we all know, 7 is a lucky number):
1. POLITICAL WILL
· In the US, Obama has stepped forward in HIV advocacy during his campaign by providing a framework for action known as the National HIV/AIDS strategy. This may seem like a win for HIV, however, with enormous budget cuts coming in the future, it is questionable whether this project will get funded and move forward.
· In order to actually get anything done, North America (and the world) needs to focus on bi-partisan support for a cure to HIV/AIDS. Otherwise, each election will just result in the unraveling of the last president’s or prime minister’s plans.
· The current challenge facing funding is simple: the global recession. Despite projections that an investment today will save money in the future due to a decrease in money put into treatment of HIV or HIV related infections, most nations do not have liquid capital to invest.
· Organizations that speak for those HIV+, must engage the private sector to find new investors. These organizations cannot keep relying on the Gates, Elton John, Ford, and MAC AIDS funds, which have raised millions of dollars in the past. HIV needs new supporters!
· Finally, expanding access to anti-retrovirals around the world and thus, increasing the market for these goods, would give pharmaceutical companies a reason to drop prices. Why hasn’t this moved forward? Because big pharm has no assurance of getting the money back in the future.
· Those fighting for HIV to get noticed need government support, but there are many ways to get this. HIV+ voters have the right to get angry when promises are not kept and remind politicians that they have the power to sway an election.
· The support of one celebrity could make a enormous difference in the fight for funding. Just one tweet or post could reignite interest in social issues surrounding HIV.
· Social media companies like youtube, google, facebook, twitter, tumblr, porn sites (for those open minded) have access to millions of viewers. Why not putting a message out for HIV?
5. THE CHURCH
· Religious or faith based organizations have the potential to influence many people quickly due to their global outreach.
· If the church allowed and encouraged believers to use condoms, increased their tolerance of GLBT, and spoke out against HIV stigma, those affiliated may be more likely to support this cause.
· Finally, believers may be more likely to disclose their HIV+ status to a religious or spiritual leader, thus these people could be critical in determining the course of their treatment and helping them feel included in the community.
6. HUMAN RIGHTS
· Empowering those HIV+ will increase adherence to medication and encourage people to get tested. These individuals need to know that they are protected by laws and by society so they know that getting a positive HIV test is not the end.
· HIV discussion must not focus on “higher risk groups” as this kind of jargon encourages stigma and discrimination of many minority social groups.
· All doctors and nurses MUST know about testing and treatment to successfully diagnose those HIV+ and get them on treatment ASAP. On the other hand, those who are not told of their status at a doctors office need to be aware of treatment, thus the media must make treatment options obvious and easy to find.
7. THE CURE
· The cliché, “fight for a cure” rings true. The road to a cure is a fight… a fight to get noticed, a fight to get picked, a fight to get support, a fight to find funding. Ready, set…. Fight!