By Krista Martel, Executive Director
Every year, World AIDS Day provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the incredible advances that we have made as a community over the last three decades and to honor the advocates and activists who have changed the course of this epidemic, including those we have lost and those who continue to tirelessly move us forward.
And while 2018 has proven to be another year of difficult battles and attacks against our community, The Well Project believes in the power of hope and the importance of lifting up the transformative changes that our community has achieved over the past 12 months. Below is just a handful of important moments from 2018 that we are celebrating this World AIDS Day:
- The 2018 midterm elections! Grassroots efforts (including many by our HIV community!) made history in this election, with a turnout that shattered prior voting records. And look who we elected! Politicians who actually represent the beautiful diversity of the United States, many of whom will surely be allies of the women and the HIV community we represent. Among them, a record number of women were elected to the House of Representatives, including the:
- First two Native American women (Deb Haaland, New Mexico and Sharice Davids, Kansas)
- First two Muslim women (Rashida Tlaib, Michigan and Ilhan Omar, Minnesota)
- First two Latinas from Texas (Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia)
- Massachusetts’ (Ayanna Pressley) and Connecticut’s (Jahana Hayes) first black women in Congress
- Youngest woman ever elected to Congress (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York)
- Other inspiring firsts include the:
- First openly gay governor in the country (Jared Polis, Colorado)
- First openly bisexual person in the Senate (Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona)
- First female senators from Arizona (Kyrsten Sinema) and Tennessee (Marsha Blackburn)
- First women governors from South Dakota (Kristi L. Noem) and Maine (Janet Mills)
- U=U continues to dismantle stigma: The understanding that people with an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to their partners is one of the most exciting recent advances in the field, and is profoundly changing the way people living with HIV see themselves. In 2018, U=U continued to gain traction around the globe and be featured at scientific and community conferences, and is now endorsed by nearly 800 organization from 96 countries. The Well Project is thrilled to have been an early partner on U=U and to have focused on U=U and women at this year’s annual WRI meeting.
- Long-acting treatment options on the horizon: Recent studies demonstrate the potential for different formulations of treatment that wouldn’t need to be taken daily. Long-acting injectables could be administered every couple of months and implants could last up to 6 months. These advances have the potential to change the treatment landscape significantly.
- Experts publish consensus on science of HIV and criminalization: At AIDS 2018, 20 of the world's leading HIV researchers came together to warn about the dangers of prosecuting people living with HIV by publishing the "Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the Context of Criminal Law," a document that aims at "reducing stigma and discrimination and avoiding miscarriages of justice."
- A road map to end HIV in the United States: The HIV community has come together to create a consensus plan to end the epidemic and call upon the government to make ending the HIV epidemic by 2025 its goal. More than 250 organizations (including The Well Project!) signed onto this plan and are demanding that the government take the necessary legislative and regulatory actions to achieve this goal.
- Trans women on TV: FX’s Pose became the first show on television centered on trans women played by trans women. It also made HIV a primary focus and humanized the epidemic in important ways.
These are important advances in 2018 and they serve such an important role in motivating us to keep the momentum going. But despite this good news, there is no doubt that we have our work cut out for us. We still have a lot of fighting to do against an administration that disregards science, continues to attack our trans sisters and brothers, aims to marginalize women and our health, and lacks any focus on the HIV epidemic whatsoever.
We also will continue to focus on the need for women HIV advocates to have seats at the table, have their voices heard, and be an integral part of the decision-making process, especially when the outcome will impact women living with HIV.
Let’s use this World AIDS Day as an opportunity to celebrate our achievements and refuel our future efforts.
Together we can change the course of the HIV epidemic…one woman at a time.