A message from our Executive Director, Erick:
PCAF and other community-based HIV organizations are built on a legacy of community action. When the epidemic first started devastating our communities, we stood together to both take care of each other and to demand action from an unresponsive government. We slowly and steadily built an HIV continuum that in many ways has become a model for other diseases. Over the last three decades, we have struggled to meet the changing needs of people living with and at risk for HIV, to address the shifting priorities of governmental funding, and to fight racism, homophobia and other structural drivers of the epidemic. We have a lot of work left to do.
The past few years have seen exciting advances in the field of HIV – increased access to care and treatment for people living with HIV (PLWH), research that shows that the risk of a person with an undetectable viral load passing on the virus is basically zero, expanded access to prevention tools such as PrEP, higher numbers of PLWH accessing insurance. In short, we have the tools available to end the epidemic. But stigma persists and is, perhaps, even more prevalent. And the political resolve to dedicate enough resources to the widespread deployment of those tools and to enact the appropriate policies to ensure success is also lacking. We have a lot of work left to do.
That work will now be that much more difficult as a result of the election. The federal level policies and funding that are in place to help us in the HIV world – the Affordable Care Act, the Ryan White Care Act, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, NIH research funding, and more – are now at even more risk. The election results have raised concerns and fears about immigration, LGBT rights, Supreme Court nominations, the future of organizations such as Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood, not to mention the integrity of the American democracy. Our clients could and most likely will face increasing instability and challenges to accessing services. Many are anxious and scared. Our staff will face increasing complications in helping their clients navigate those services, not to mention having fears and concerns for their own families and loved ones. Many of them are also anxious and scared.
We don’t know what or when or how things will change. What we do know is that this election has already increased levels of fear and uncertainty in our community that will make our work that much more difficult in the years to come.
What has not changed is our mission: “PCAF, through education and service, prevents HIV infection, assists persons affected by HIV/AIDS, addresses related health problems, and combats associated stigma and discrimination.” What has not changed is our willingness to do the hard work necessary to fight this epidemic. What has not changed is that we respect individuals and are dedicated to serving their needs. What has not changed is our dedication to maintaining a caring environment where clients, volunteers, and staff are learners, teachers, and leaders. What has not changed is that we empower people to make pro-active health decisions to reduce risk or harm to themselves or others in a way that is non-judgmental, sex-positive, gay-positive, and culturally sensitive.
What has not changed is that we have a lot of work left to do. PCAF’s continued success is about all of us working together to end this epidemic. It’s about showing how prevention and care can be effectively integrated. It’s about developing staff to be recognized national leaders in their field. It’s about building sustainable funding models for the work. It’s about combating stigma on every level. It’s about ensuring that the people we serve live full, healthy lives no matter their viral status or what life experiences they have had. And now, most importantly, it’s about building coalition, solidarity and partnership with other social justice organizations and movements.
We have a lot of work left to do. To stand with us and ensure that this work continues, we encourage our community to speak out and take action. Here are some ways you can show your support: