By: Anishaa Sivakumar, 2019-2020 AIDS Advocacy Network Chair
770,000 lives lost. 1.7 million lives irrevocably altered. All in a year.
HIV, the deadliest pandemic, remains a devastating illness in the US and abroad. And yet, as we reflect on the past and see the tremendous strides we have taken, we can look forward with hope for an AIDS-free future.
World AIDS Day stands as a reminder to us all that we must remain steadfast in our fight, that we are getting better, that things will improve. Even since last year, we have seen a massive improvement in accessing quality care for HIV. We’ve seen a 16% decline in the estimated number of new cases per year of HIV since 2010, and strategic changes are leading to an improvement in the number of those living with HIV accessing treatment. It is at this critical time when we could throw in the towel that we must instead embolden our efforts and fight to reduce the spread of not only HIV but of TB.
HIV AND TB
HIV and Tuberculosis exist in a disturbingly intertwined state—TB is the leading cause of death among those infected with HIV, and HIV can worsen in those diagnosed with TB. Brought together, they serve to amplify their opposing effects—and enhance the lethality of their respective diseases.
Since 2005, collaborative efforts between HIV and TB communities have saved 6.6 million lives. Still, in 2015, tuberculosis claimed 390,000 lives among people living with HIV. Drug-resistant TB presents a new and terrifying obstacle to face and overcome for those struggling with HIV.
PEPFAR (The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is our most substantial investment in fighting for an end to AIDS—and it’s in trouble. This year, the President and the Senate have proposed funding cuts to PEPFAR, at a time when we should be digging in. As Ambassador Birx (U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy) says, by “making sure that country-by-country, community-by-community, that there’s still HIV awareness – awareness of where it is in their community, awareness about what their risks are, and awareness that there is both prevention and treatment tools that actually can change the course of this pandemic” we can work towards a more efficient and streamlined access to care and prevention of HIV.
Learn more about PEPFAR here!
[highlight]Want to get involved? Try calling your Senator to support PEPFAR using this script![/highlight]
Senator’s office: “Hello, this is ___________’s office, to whom am I speaking?”
You: “Hello, my name is ____ and I am a (pre-medical/medical student) at _______. As one of the 30,000 members of the American Medical Student Association in support of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, I wanted to share why I support PEPFAR. PEPFAR is a critical program that has saved millions of lives and advances US security interests abroad. As a future medical professional, I want to be sure that programs exist to fight this destructive and expensive disease. Will Senator _______ commit to a $1 billion dollar increase for PEPFAR in Fiscal Year 2020?”
Senator’s office: “Thank you for calling! (May provide an answer to the question above, may not). Can we get your information for a callback?”