(Photo Credit: AIDS United, Denis Largeron Photography)
CHICAGO, IL – AIDS Foundation Chicago attended AIDSWatch 2023 in Washington, D.C., from March 19-21, 2023. Held in-person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, AIDSWatch convened over 360 advocates from across the nation for community building, education and advocacy on behalf of people impacted by HIV.
Attendees reconnected with new and old friends at the AIDSWatch reception on Sunday, where the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus presented their Persistent Advocate awards to Martha Cameron and Achim Howard. Monday was filled with insightful and energizing presentations by community leaders and experts from across the nation, including remarks from current Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) Director Harold J. Phillips, and eighteen policy and advocacy workshops that ranged from reproductive health and justice to anti-Blackness in HIV policy and more. Finally, on Tuesday, advocates descended on Capitol Hill for advocacy day, kicking off the day with a rally in the Capitol Hill Lawn before breaking to meet with elected officials and their staff.
Omar Martínez González, Sr. Manager of Policy & Advocacy at AFC , led the Illinois delegation of six advocates in meetings with staff members from the offices of Senator Tammy Duckworth, Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and Representative Chuy Garcia (IL-04). Participants drew from their lived experiences to call for urgent funding to programs that people who are living with HIV (PLWH) depend on to remain healthy, such as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program which funds vital medical care for low-income Americans to receive HIV care; the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, which is the only federal housing program dedicated for PLWH; the Minority AIDS Initiative for dedicated funding to Black- and Latinx-led HIV/AIDS organizations; and funding for risk reduction services across various agencies and programs for people who struggle with substance use.
In addition to these vital programs for PLWH, advocates called on Congress to enact President Biden’s proposed national PrEP program for people who are uninsured and underinsured. President Biden in his budget request to Congress for FY23 and FY24 called for the creation of such a program to increase access to this vital medication, which has been approved for the prevention of HIV since 2012, and which remains financially inaccessible to those most impacted by HIV, including Black and Latinx same gender-loving men, Black and Latinx transgender women, and cis-gender Black women. Beyond PrEP, advocates urged Congress to fund other testing and prevention programs such as the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative across various agencies, funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) HIV, Hepatitis, STD and TB programs, and the CDC Opioid Related Infectious Disease line item.
While unable to meet with Illinois advocates during AIDSWatch, the offices of Senator Richard Durbin and Representative Delia Ramirez (IL-03) met with advocates virtually in April. AFC looks forward to engaging Congressional offices on these important issues over the next few months as the appropriations process moves forward, and to continue to work with national partners such as AIDS United to advocate on behalf of people living with and vulnerable to HIV.
Categorized under AFC news, Inside Story and National.