We’ve never been closer to the end of the HIV epidemic in the United States and worldwide. But we must now come together to work harder than ever before.
As a Black, gay man who lived through the early days of the HIV epidemic in this country, Pride month is a time when I recognize the power and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. And while being a part of this community gives me great joy, it also reminds me of the hard work ahead of us. Particularly as we move forward to finally end the HIV epidemic in the United States and work toward a world free of stigma and discrimination.
An end in sight
Ending the HIV epidemic is achievable. Today, we have the tools we need to prevent HIV transmission and keep those with HIV healthy. For example, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is more than 95 percent effective at preventing HIV among those at high risk of acquiring it. While PrEP uptake remains too low, cost need not be a barrier. Free PrEP is available through the Ready, Set, PrEP program to those without prescription drug coverage.
Research has proven the importance of effective treatment. People with HIV who take HIV medicine, and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, protect their health. They also have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to others. Now, we must work harder and smarter to deploy these and other tools to the greatest effect. Especially among those populations that are disproportionately impacted by the disease.
This is a transitional moment. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that we can operate differently by implementing innovations, such as telehealth and HIV self-testing, to meet the needs of people with HIV and those who are at risk of contracting it.
As we celebrate Pride month, I encourage my fellow LGBTQ+ community members to check your HIV status and to encourage others to do the same. You can find an HIV testing site or other HIV services near you using the HIV.gov services locator. The past year has been traumatic for many of us, so it’s also essential to access mental health resources that are available to help as well.
Let’s move forward by making whole-person health a priority and celebrating the resilience and strength of our diverse community.