President Barack Obama issued a World AIDS Day Proclamation – recognizing December 1st as World AIDS Day. On Monday, December 1, 2014, The White House will honor this worldwide observance of World AIDS Day using the theme: Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-Free Generation. Today’s observance at The White House will be tele-cast live starting at 12:00 noon EST.
Earlier this year, the White House issued an update on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). The document highlights the progress in meeting the goals of the NHAS during the first four years of implementation.
According to the CDC, more than 1.2 million people were living with HIV in the US. Yet, only four in 10 persons living with HIV are receiving HIV medical care. Research demonstrates that achieving viral suppression (by adhering to HIV medicines) allows people living with HIV to have nearly normal lifespans and greatly reduces their chances of transmitting the virus. (CDC, 2014).
Social workers have a key role in supporting the goals of the NHAS: reduce the number of new infections, increase access the care and treatment, and reduce health disparities. We have the opportunity to talk with clients and patients about HIV prevention, the skills to help clients engage in and access appropriate health services, and the opportunity to work directly with clients to identify and build strategies to promote medication adherence.
To help reduce the number of new cases of HIV or AIDS, learn about how to incorporate treatment as prevention into your practice, including educating clients about Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day.
Working on the front-lines in clinics, schools, and agencies, social workers have the opportunity to help clients increase access to and continued engagement in medical care. This includes providing comprehensive care and treatment – to all persons and communities – through access to mental health and behavioral health services for youth and adults living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS impacts the communities in which social workers live and practice. Health disparities are rooted in range of complex social, economic, environmental, and systemic issues.
These challenges are the very issues addressed daily by the social work profession – and have a direct impact on the increased risk for HIV/AIDS and other co-occurring health and behavioral health risks: homophobia, lack of access to care, discrimination and stigma, lack of information, language barriers, immigration status, and the overwhelming impact of poverty.
Globally, the social work professional must continue our efforts for inclusion of HIV/AIDS issues into development efforts, emphasizing awareness, prevention, and care and treatment as priority areas to be actively included in organizational systems and policies.