Today is the 25th annual World Aids Day. This piece in The Advocate by Vanessa Cullins, M.D., the vice president for External Medical Affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, notes some critical progress against the disease as well as the scope of work yet to be done. Her ambitious call to action is nothing short of achieving an “AIDS-free generation” in less than thirty years.
Of particular note is the disproportionate impact of HIV on sexual minorities and people of color:
In the United States, gay, bisexual, and other “men who have sex with men” have the highest rates of HIV infection in the nation; within this group, young African-American men are at even higher risk. Also among those highest at risk for HIV infection are transgender people, especially African-American transgender women.
And the impact of HIV and AIDS on members of the LGBTQ community goes beyond infection rates. LGBTQ people have unique health care needs: in addition to high rates of stress due to systematic harassment and discrimination — which has been shown to affect physical and mental health — LGBTQ people are less likely to be insured or adequately insured, and are more likely to face discrimination from medical providers. LGBTQ people of color are at an even higher risk for these disparities — which means they often face greater obstacles, delays, and cost barriers to getting testing and treatment for HIV.
Early treatment helps those with HIV live longer and healthier without symptoms, and early treatment reduces risk of HIV spread to others.
Because our government is hopelessly conservative (with all of the inherent corruption that implies), Americans do not have universal single-payer healthcare. The tragedy of AIDS is exacerbated by this inexcusable situation, compounded by piss-poor sexual health education and little or no access to preventive care for teens and young adults. While the ACA promises to make a dent in treatment access for some of those who presently have no health insurance, Planned Parenthood has long been on the front lines in this fight:
On World AIDS Day, as every day, we are committed to helping create the healthiest generation ever, by working to increase sex education and HIV testing, and by helping patients who need additional care connect with trusted, quality resources. These are effective and essential HIV prevention tools.
In 2011, Planned Parenthood health centers provided 680,000 rapid HIV tests (a 16 percent increase from the previous year); reached more than 1 million people through education programs; and served more men than ever — primarily for STD testing services.
By investing in sex education, fully implementing the Affordable Care Act, and increasing access to sexual health care from diagnosis to ongoing treatment, especially for those communities hardest hit — young, black gay and bisexual men, and black trans women — we can help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and reverse the course of this epidemic.
Remember this next time your congresscritters are willing to cut Planned Parenthood funding. It’s a major health care issue, and at least Planned Parenthood is working to solve it.
All Americans deserve better.