On December 1, 2016, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation recognizing World AIDS Day. He stated that “by shining a light on this issue and educating more communities about the importance of testing and treatment, we have saved and improved lives. Although we have come far in recent decades, our work is not yet done and the urgency to intervene in this epidemic is critical”.
World AIDS Day is about increasing awareness, fighting stigma and discrimination, improving education, and advocating for access to care, treatment, and support. For social workers worldwide, World AIDS Day provides the opportunity to remind others that HIV/AIDS remains a global health issue. Promoting individual human rights challenges the barriers created by stigma and discrimination, and works to ensure the right to access to comprehensive health and behavioral health services. World AIDS Day provides an opportunity to take action and ensure that human rights are protected for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment.
On November 30, 2016, the White House Office on National HIV/AIDS Policy (ONAP) released the 2016 Progress Report including an infographic on major milestones between 2010 and 2016. The Strategy’s indicators of progress set targets for 2020, and targets to measure progress annually. the Report notes that between 2010 and 2013 great strides were made: new HIV diagnoses decreased by 7 percent; overall, there were increases in knowledge of serostatus, linkage to care, and viral suppression; and the death rate dropped by about 30 percent. The Report reminds us that challenges continue. For example: HIV rates have increased among youth, people who inject drugs, and transgender women; progress in reducing the diagnosis disparity in the Southern United States has stalled; and homelessness among persons with HIV continued to inch upward.
The 2016 Progress Report includes three emerging/critical areas to the targets: to increase the percentage of transgender women in HIV medical care who are virally suppressed (to 90%); to increase the number of people prescribed Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) by 500%; and to decrease HIV associated stigma among people living with HIV by 25%. You can find the latest findings in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy Indicator Supplement. President Obama also spoke via webcast about the importance of individual and community engagement in HIV prevention, care, and treatment and thanked those working to end AIDS.
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.
Take Action! Get tested for HIV; practice harm reduction; seek resources in your community. Support the National HIV/AIDS Strategy through social work practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of practice.
Stay informed! Connect with the National HIV/AIDS and Mental Health Training Resource Center
Connect! Let us know how you and your community recognizes World AIDS Day.
Posted by: Evelyn P. Tomaszewski, MSW