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The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) celebrates the bold goals outlined by President Barack Obama’s updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy 2020 (NHAS), which was released on Dec. 1.
In 2010, President Obama became the first President to release the nation's first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and in July, the NHAS to 2020. The updated implementation plan denotes key steps various federal agencies will undertake in addressing the domestic HIV epidemic.
The NHAS federal action plan outlines a comprehensive and coordinated approach to addressing domestic HIV/AIDS and advances many critical components the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) and other advocates have embraced, including the following:
Support for people living with HIV to remain linked and retained into comprehensive care
Increased access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and services associated with the program
Universal viral suppression
Inclusion of behavioral health and supportive services
Enforcement activities like prioritizing complaints of discrimination against people living with HIV in health care and insurance coverage
Efforts to ensure health equity
"AFC is committed to advocating for implementation of the NHAS in Chicago and Illinois. We will share lessons learned with advocates in other states and cities to build capacity and advocate for implementation,” said John Peller, President/CEO of AFC.
“We are heartened to see the new plan keenly address structural barriers,” said Ramon Gardenhire, vice president of Policy and Advocacy for AFC. “This aligns with AFC'S new strategic plan. Thirty years into the epidemic, we understand from both quantitative and qualitative data that we will never reach universal viral suppression if we don't address structural barriers such as poverty, incarceration, homophobia and unemployment, which disproportionately impact those hardest hit or affected by HIV.”
While structural barriers are addressed by the NHAS, the plan does not offer sufficient attention to key communities most vulnerable to HIV, such as sex workers, transgender individuals and immigrant populations.
“We laud the Obama Administration's ambitious and courageous plan; it is a testament to their commitment and vision for helping the U.S. achieve an AIDS-free generation,” said Suraj Madoori, manager of HIV Prevention Justice Alliance federal policy for AFC. “However, the plan doesn't sufficiently address some critical communities such as sex workers, transgender individuals, and only focuses on testing and treatment for immigrant populations in the context of detention facilities.”
Nationally, over 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and an estimated 50,000 new infections occur each year, with Black gay and bisexual men bearing the greatest burden of new HIV infections. Locally, an estimated 43,500 people live with HIV in Illinois, and in Chicago, approximately 25,500 people live with the disease. Nearly 60% of those living with HIV in Illinois have not yet achieved viral suppression, which is the benchmark for living with HIV in a healthy, low-transmission-risk way.
AFC understands that the federal plan is not just a federal plan, but a community framework. AFC looks forward to working with federal and local partners to fully implement the exceptional plan.