With the right approach, we can end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Illinois
For more than four decades, HIV has and continues to impact communities in every corner of this state, from Chicago to Carbondale. In the early days of the epidemic, unimaginable loss was the default response and activism backed by resilience was our only tool to combat HIV/AIDS and the stigma that followed.
Fast forward past new treatment options (pre-exposure prophylaxis, called PrEP, and undetectable=untransmittable, or U=U) and ending the HIV epidemic is within reach.
Unveiled in May 2019, the Getting to Zero Illinois plan is built on improving access to and use of PrEP and retaining more people living with HIV. But it shouldn’t stop there. Our response to the epidemic must be grounded in how we address the drivers of HIV, including housing and job insecurity, the impact of HIV-related stigma and systemic racism.
There are those who will question the motivation to lead with race to stem the tide of HIV in Illinois. Our answer is this: Black and Latino communities account for nearly 75% of new HIV diagnoses in Illinois, at 50% and 23% respectively. As a black gay man living with HIV, I believe we need to focus our efforts on ending the epidemic in these communities, the same communities that bear the brunt of the epidemic. In other words, we will not get to zero without doing it.
Much more needs to be done to keep Getting to Zero Illinois moving forward. Through tremendous advocacy, the General Assembly included historic funding of $10 million for fiscal year 2023 to develop and implement community-centered programs outlined in the Getting to Zero plan.
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We believe these funds should include housing and support services, HIV stigma reduction programs and an early intervention program to identify people living with HIV who are not currently in care, among others. The nature of the current HIV emergency in Black and Latino communities calls for swift action to get these much needed funds to the community without delay.
With close cooperation from state and community-based health officials, we can move closer to our goal of achieving zero new HIV transmissions by 2030 and ending the HIV epidemic in the world. ‘Illinois.
Timothy Jackson, Director of Government Relations, AIDS Foundation Chicago
Blaming men for unwanted pregnancies
The religious right has won a decades-long crusade to criminalize abortion. But it has done nothing to reduce the need for this service and, in fact, seems to want to criminalize birth control as well. We badly need balance.
There should be a determined effort to minimize the need for abortions, and one of the ways to achieve this is to make men entirely responsible for unwanted pregnancies. Every birth to an unmarried woman should require the identification of the father and require him to provide full financial support to that child, including school fees, if desired, until that child reaches l legal age.
Men who know that pregnancy will significantly burden their future life might be more careful about unprotected sex. It’s time to balance the books – men need to be financially responsible.
Gilbert Liss, Chicago