In 2012, Bruce Richman received news about his health that would set him on an unexpected path.
His doctor explained to him that he was “undetectable,” meaning that by adhering to his HIV antiretroviral therapy, the viral load in his blood was so low that it could no longer be detected.
Bruce Richman, founder of Prevention Access Campaign, is working to change the way the world views people living with HIV
This was a game changer for him. The news meant that Richman, who first found out he had HIV in 2003, would be unable to pass the virus on to any sexual partner.
“I found out nine years after my diagnosis that I can’t transmit the disease. My doctor told me and, here I am, a privileged white guy with a support system. I’m privileged with this information, and I started looking around and saw that nothing confirmed it was true,” Richman told Healthline. “I started doing research. There was no information out there to the general public that was clear and inclusive and accepted that this was true.”
Richman’s realization that this information, which could benefit thousands upon thousands of people living with HIV, rested mainly within medical circles — accessible to those with connections and privilege — awakened something within him.
Continue reading on Healthline.com.
How do we reduce rates concentrated among black and Latino men who have sex with men? Or meet the needs of HIV-positive patients caught between insurance plans or places to live? To end the epidemic, we must start where we began — by focusing on those most affected, uniting advocacy efforts, pushing for a cross-sector response and focusing on the social determinants of health.
As someone who has spent the better part of my professional career as both an advocate and HIV public health expert, I’ve been reflecting on the decades-long fight for gay rights sparked by people who gathered together at Stonewall in 1969 to demand change for the LGBTQ+ community and put an end to years of discrimination. Not long after, the AIDS epidemic swept across the country, closely intertwining the movement for increased LGBTQ+ rights with the AIDS response. Gay rights groups were relentless in pushing for increased government attention and funding as thousands died from the disease. Activists organized “buyers clubs,” lobbied for faster FDA approval of promising drugs and countered the fear and discrimination people living with AIDS faced.
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From the Pittsburgh City Paper…
On World AIDS Day in 2015, AIDS Free Pittsburgh launched as a collective initiative of healthcare institutions and community-based organizations to support those living with HIV/AIDS, and those in high-risk communities. Following the example of San Francisco and New York, the organization set three goals: to increase access to PrEP, to routinize and destigmatize HIV testing, and to put in place a rapid linkage to care for those diagnosed.
One of the major successes of these efforts has been the increased information about and access to PrEP. Dr. Ken Ho, chair of the PrEP subcommittee of AIDS Free Pittsburgh, says, “We’ve developed multiple programs to make PrEP more accessible in Pittsburgh.” He goes on, “My hope is that our efforts will translate to a continued decline in HIV infections.” These efforts have included putting together PrEP toolkits for providers, hosting informational happy hours for pharmacists, and multi-pronged advertising and media campaigns to chip away at the stigma associated with HIV.
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June is AIDS Education Month, and Philadelphia FIGHT has organized a number of events designed to prevent HIV and get folks tested. “People are not going in to get treatment. People still lack access to care,” said Tashina Okorie the director of community health training alliance for Philadelphia FIGHT. She says, while many believe that the AIDS epidemic is over, there is a lack of education and a plethora of stigma.
So the goal of AIDS Education Month, Okorie says, is to dispel myths and provide details on testing, prevention and access to health care. “Access to prep and access to just medication, so you can take care of your health,” she said.
On Tuesday, hundreds will attend the HIV Prevention and Education Summit at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which will feature dozens of workshops. “Around HIV prevention, around hepatitis C treatment, around behavioral health matters,” she explained. Later in the month there’s a community cookout and workshop on how to teach others about HIV.
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From the Human Rights Campaign…
In 2017, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation partnered with researchers at the University of Connecticut to conduct a groundbreaking survey of over 12,000 LGBTQ youth and capture their experiences in their families, schools, social circles and communities. More than 1,600 Black and African American LGBTQ youth responded to the survey.
This resource presents data collected from these youth, shedding light on their challenges and triumphs encountered while navigating multiple, intersecting identities. This report utilizes the full sample (any respondent who answered more than 10 percent of the survey) and provides more detail than is captured in the 2018 Youth Report.
Find out more.
Though HIV is treatable today, the challenges of navigating the health care system can be stressful for anyone, let alone an individual living with a chronic illness. AIDS Resource Alliance utilizes a team of case managers who are trained to help their clients with insurance, housing, treatment and other issues that impact the lives of persons living with HIV. Twice-monthly support groups give clients a chance to share their experiences and struggles within a safe space where judgment and stigma are not allowed.
AIDS Resource Alliance also provides prevention services to the communities they serve. HIV and STI testing are available free of charge during office hours, as are condoms and other harm reduction materials. Each testing client is also provided with risk-reduction education, and general education services are available to local agencies and organizations who want their members to learn more about HIV and sexual health.
Much has changed since the earliest days of the epidemic, and the staff at AIDS Resource are preparing for the future with programming that addresses the new landscape of HIV in America. PrEP, the daily medication that can prevent HIV infection, is prescribed free in the Williamsport offices, as are the required testing and physical examinations necessary to continue the medication (the cost of the drug is the responsibility of the patient, but the AIDS Resource team can assist the client in applying for programs that assist in covering the cost of the drug.) As the population of people living with HIV enters their 60s and beyond, support group and other focused social activities enable clients to maintain positive social connections. Counseling services are provided free of charge to clients who request them.
Find out more.