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Fauci: More resources needed to end global HIV/AIDS epidemic

Proposed budget cuts threaten HIV and AIDS programs

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks at the U.S. Conference on AIDS at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in D.C. on Sept. 9, 2017. (Washington Blade photos by Michael K. Lavers)

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases at the National Institutes of Health on Saturday said more resources need to be devoted to ending the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci in a presentation he gave at the U.S. Conference on AIDS at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in D.C. noted “individual countries” have met UNAIDS targets of having 90 percent of people with HIV knowing their status, receiving antiretroviral therapy and having undetectable viral loads by 2020. He pointed out “globally as a whole we are still far from the mark at 44 percent.”

“We need to do much better,” said Fauci. “You do much better with resources.”

Fauci said 19.5 million of the more than 36 million people around the world who are living with HIV are on antiretroviral drugs. He noted there is a “treatment gap” of 17.2 million people.

“We are really far off the mark. so we need to so something at a global epidemiological level that involves not only people in this room, but governments, our own, international organizations that need to pull together for that,” said Fauci.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in her remarks at the conference’s opening plenary on Thursday noted President Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year would cut $850 million from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and $225 million from the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She also criticized the White House for proposing cuts to the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act that provides assistance to low-income people with HIV and their families, the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health and the National Institutes of Health itself.

Fauci in his remarks did not specifically refer to the proposed cuts. He did say, however, there is a need for an HIV vaccine “to achieve what I call durable end of the HIV pandemic.”

“We’re not talking about the individual person who’s living with HIV or what we can do for at the at-risk purpose, even in the absence of a vaccine,” he said. “But globally and epidemiology if we want to end the epidemic, if it’s durable we’re going to need a vaccine.”

‘We are a movement for social justice’

Roughly 3,000 people attended the conference that NMAC — formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council — organized.

NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata on Saturday discussed Trump’s proposed budget, noting it “has been a very difficult time in Washington.”

“We are a movement for social justice,” he said. “We are a movement for social justice that is dependent upon government funding.”

Kawata in his remarks referenced last month’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last month that left a 32-year-old woman dead and more than a dozen others injured. He also noted the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has allowed roughly 800,000 young documented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and obtain work permits.

“A lot of us are really hurting right now,” said Kawata. “There’s so many messages that we’re getting.”

“We’re being told in the outside world that we’re second-class citizens,” he added. “Goddamn it we are not second-class citizens and we deserve to fight and we deserve to stand up for who we are.”

NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata speaks at the U.S. Conference on AIDS at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in D.C. on Sept. 9, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Members of the U = U campaign — which describes itself as “a health equity initiative to end the dual epidemics of HIV and HIV-related stigma by empowering people with and vulnerable to HIV with accurate and meaningful information about their social, sexual, and reproductive health” — took to the stage before Kawata spoke and protested.

“I’m so happy today as a gay black man to be able to say that U = U,” said Roscoe Boyd of Detroit. “I’ve been taking my medication every day and because of that I cannot transmit the virus to my partner. That empowers me to live a life that’s full and free.”

AIDS Alabama CEO Kathie Hiers echoed Boyd when she spoke.

“If you are undetectable. you are not a danger,” said Hiers. “You can have a healthy sex life. you can have babies. the sky is the limit.”

Fauci on Saturday noted his support for the campaign.

“The science does really verify and validate that U = U,” he said.

Conference organizers on Friday allowed a group of five transgender rights advocates who interrupted a plenary to speak on the stage for nearly 20 minutes. One man who attended Saturday’s plenary interrupted Kawata and criticized conference organizers for not providing “space for the Latino community.”

“You call this a family reunion, but I have not seen one Latino voice on that main stage,” said the man, who did not identify himself. “It’s very heartbreaking to come here once again and not see a Latino presence on the main stage.”

“Our people are hurting too,” he added. “We’re brown and undocumented. we’re brown and gay. we’re brown, gay and undocumented . . . our voice is important.”

Kawata acknowledged the man from the stage after he stopped speaking.

“Thank you for standing up and speaking your truth,” said Kawata. “Thank you for speaking up and for holding me accountable.”

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AIDS and HIV

Peacock will premiere HIV documentary on World AIDS Day

Drew, who was diagnosed with HIV in the late 1980’s when he was only 23 years old, was not paid for his participation in the trial

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Right to Try (2021) Peacock/NBCUniversal Television and Streaming

NEW YORK — NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock will premiere the documentary short “Right to Try,” which explores one man’s search to cure his HIV, Wednesday on World AIDS Day. 

The film, produced by Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer and directed by “The Late Late Show With James Corden” producer Zeberiah Newman, follows HIV survivor and activist Jeffrey Drew’s participation in an experimental vaccine trial. 

“We are thrilled our film ‘Right to Try’ will be seen on Peacock. Though Jeffrey Drew’s heroic journey is singular, his story is universal,” Spencer said in a statement, according to Variety. “This is an important film and with Peacock we have a wonderful partner to bring it to our audience.”

Val Boreland, EVP of content acquisitions at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, added: “It is an honor to share Drew’s story with Peacock users and raise awareness around the important issue of HIV research. We know the impact of this documentary will be far-reaching.”

The documentary shows the side effects that Drew experienced during the early days of the trial. The coronavirus pandemic interrupted the study, as the doctor spearheading the experimental vaccine started working on the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Drew, who was diagnosed with HIV in the late 1980’s when he was only 23 years old, was not paid for his participation in the trial that a major pharmaceutical company did not fund. 

“There are people who are still getting infected and sick and dying,” he told Variety in a June interview. “I would love to see a generation that doesn’t have to think or worry about this anymore.”
“Right to Try” won the Audience Award for Documentary Short last summer at Outfest, an LGBTQ+ film festival in Los Angeles.

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AIDS and HIV

Los Angeles observes World AIDS Day with star-studded concert

Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and Juan Pablo di Pace will also be performing at the ceremony

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LOS ANGELES — As World AIDS Day is recognized around the globe, Los Angeles will mark the day with a free concert with a star-studded line-up at The Forum hosted by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AFA) and a ceremony at The Wall Las Memorias (TWLA) AIDS Monument in Lincoln Park Wednesday.

In a press release, the AFA said Grammy award winners Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera are set to perform in front of a sold-out crowd. Emmy-nominated comedian Randy Rainbow will host the event, which will take place from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

In addition to the entertainment, the AFA will honor Vermont’s U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders with a Lifetime Achievement Award and a special video presentation. The award will be accepted by his wife Jane Sanders.

“This year marks two significant milestones in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS: first, for the first recognition by the CDC of the virus that led to what is now known as AIDS (40 years ago, in June 1981), and second, the launch of AHF (35 years ago),” the release reads. 

TWLA’s ceremony will reveal an expanded footprint of the surrounding landscape of the country’s only publicly funded AIDS monument. The monument, created in 2004, will also add over 1,000 names of loved ones lost to AIDS to the 360-plus names already etched into it and unveil new artwork. 

TWLM Founder Richard Zaldivar, Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo and County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis are all expected to attend the event, which will start at 6:15 p.m. at 3600 N. Mission Road. According to NBC 4 Los Angeles, organizers also hope Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will be in attendance. 

Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and Juan Pablo di Pace will also be performing at the ceremony. 

World AIDS Day is observed every December 1 to raise awareness about AIDS and honor the people who have died of the disease. This year’s theme is “End inequities. End AIDS and End Pandemics.”

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AIDS and HIV

National Black Justice Coalition Partners with Twitter for World AIDS Day

Conversations about HIV prevention, treatment, and support on World AIDS Day must center on the Black community.

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Graphic courtesy of the National Black Justice Coalition

WASHINGTON n- On December 1, 2021, World AIDS Day, the National Black Justice Coalition is partnering with Twitter’s #CampaignsForChange and #TwitterIgnite on a campaign to educate people about HIV/AIDS and the importance of their involvement in the fight to end the epidemic. The campaign will center around a safe space on Twitter that encourages the use of the #MyFirstHIVTweet hashtag and urges people to talk about HIV and sexual wellness. ‘

World AIDS Day (WAD) is an opportunity to remember those who have passed due to an AIDS-related illness, support those currently living with HIV, and unite in the fight to end HIV/AIDS worldwide. 

An estimated 37.7 million people globally were living with HIV at the end of 2020, and since the epidemic began in the 1980s, 36.3 million people have died from an AIDS-related illness. 

In the U.S., the Black community is disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic, with gay, bisexual, and same-gender loving men and Black women being the most affected. In 2018, Black people comprised 42% (16,002) of the 37,968 new HIV diagnoses, and Black  same-gender loving, gay, and bisexual men made up 26% (9,712) of the new diagnoses. In 2016, Black women accounted for 6 in 10 new HIV diagnoses among women. 

“Conversations about HIV prevention, treatment, and support on World AIDS Day must center on the Black community.  We must reduce stigma in our community, including by having critically important but sometimes challenging conversations about HIV/AIDS,” explained David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition.

“There are many people who are engaged in activism around the LGBTQ+ community and racial issues but are notably absent from the conversation around HIV. This is because the epidemic is not visible for them and because they lack accurate information on HIV. My hope is this safe space encourages people to send what will not be their last HIV/Tweet and to consider using NBJC to help find a testing location or to request an at-home testing kit. Too many people are still dying as a result of HIV/AIDS and this does not have to be our reality.” 

NBJC has created this Words Matter HIV Toolkit to support asset-based conversations about holistic health and wellness.  

For more information on how HIV/AIDS impacts the Black community and how to engage during World AIDS Day and beyond, view NBJC’s World AIDS Day Toolkit.  Get tested and know your status. Doctors recommend testing every three to six months.  

You can find a testing site near you at https://gettested.cdc.gov/ or if you are 17 years or older and live in the U.S., order a FREE at-home HIV test kit via the Have Good Sex program. 

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