ACT UP commits to reinvigorate the national prevention agenda

From (written by ACT UP members  James Krellenstein and Jim Eigo)…

ACT UP commits to reinvigorate the national prevention agendaBefore Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state, she presided over the official November 29, 2012, release of a Blueprint for an AIDS-Free Generation. With a trumpeter on the inside front cover, the 64-page document declared that the world was about to enter the third and final phase of the war against HIV infection. After AIDS as a full-scale plague, and AIDS as a manageable disease, we now had within our sites the elimination of symptomatic HIV. Twenty days later, however, another arm of the U.S. government released another document. Some news it contained struck a discordant note with Secretary Clinton’s battle cry. After reading it, many wondered if we hadn’t somehow traveled back to the dark early years of the epidemic.

According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) incidence estimates released on December 19, men who have sex with men (MSM; a category that includes transgender women), comprising less than two percent of the population, accounted for 66 percent of the 47,600 new HIV infections in 2010. Between 2008 and 2010, new infections rose 12 percent for all MSM and 22 percent for young MSM. Some subpopulations were at substantially higher risk: an African American man who had sex with men was six times likelier to acquire HIV infection than his white counterpart.

Spurred by news of the sharp upward trend of new infections, a core of grassroots activists of differing ages, sexes, orientations, colors, and serostatus began working on prevention issues for ACT UP/NY — they include the authors. Though the CDC numbers told of a prevention emergency, few in New York’s gay communities — from the rank-and-file to the top echelons of Gay, Inc. — seemed to realize what was going on. HIV was something that the community had taken care of back around 1997, wasn’t it? Effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) has made HIV manageable for most who have access to the drugs. For many younger men, AIDS was a disease — and a political cause — of the 1980s. Yet the successful treatment of HIV requires that strong drugs be taken over a lifetime. And those most likely to become infected — young, queer, and of color — are among the least likely to receive care, or even to know they’re infected.

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