Written by Paul Kawata, Executive Director, National Minority AIDS Council
I believe that this year’s United States Conference on AIDS (November 10-13) in Chicago, is one of the most important in our history. Our movement is at a crossroads as we work to implement the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. We can change the course of the epidemic. Biomedical innovations like Treatment as Prevention (TasP) as part of a combined prevention agenda could end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our lifetime.
At the same time, this has been a difficult year for many of us on the front lines. AIDS organizations across the country have experienced cuts in funding and revenue that have forced them to eliminate programs or even close their doors at a time when demand for their services has risen.
This year’s USCA’s theme is, “Make Change Real: Unite. Speak. Act.” As legislators across the country work to reduce deficits and cut spending, we must all come together as a cohesive movement, speak up and make sure that the promise this moment holds doesn’t slip through our collective fingers. That’s what USCA is all about – bringing the community together to discuss the most pressing issues facing our national response to the epidemic and planning for the future.
This year’s USCA target population is gay and bisexual men or men who have sex with men (MSM). While HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on all minority communities, the three populations with the highest number of infections in 2009 were White, African American and Latino gay and bisexual men. This is the first time in the epidemic’s history that the number of infections among Latino gay and bisexual men outpaced African American women. What’s more, for several years now, gay and bisexual men have been the only population where infection rates were on the rise.
Given these statistics, this year’s USCA will have a special gay men’s plenary featuring David Furnish, chair of the Elton John AIDS Foundation , as its keynote speaker. The plenary will also include CNN anchor Don Lemon, Arizona State Senator Jack Jackson, former Project Runway contestant Mondo Guerra and BeiBei Ye, the director of the Zhixing Guangzhou LGBT Center in China. This session will also feature singer and Broadway legend, Jennifer Holiday.
We have worked hard to ensure that USCA 2011 will provide a forum unlike any other – an opportunity for workers from all fronts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic—from case managers and physicians, to public health workers and advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS to policymakers—to build national support networks, exchange the latest information and learn cutting edge tools to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. I hope that you will join us in Chicago this November and seize this critical moment for our community. The time has come, and we have the power to make change real.