Despite the sobering statistics, the group was optimistic about meeting the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Significant advances have been made in HIV prevention and treatment: Getting tested is easier than ever before, and medications have extended the lives of tens of thousands of people living with HIV.
In addition, the Affordable Care Act is dramatically expanding coverage of HIV-prevention services and medical care for African Americans. In 2014, 7 million uninsured African Americans, including thousands living with HIV, will have access to health care coverage. Already, the Affordable Care Act has extended coverage to thousands of young adults and has increased access to HIV testing for millions of women without cost sharing. And because of the law, insurers can also no longer turn away someone just because he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
We also discussed the ongoing importance of continuing the Ryan White Program, which provides vital care and treatment for people living with HIV who would not otherwise have access to comprehensive care.
Participants also pointed out that we must address more upstream issues, including increasing educational and economic opportunities for all Americans, to turn the tide permanently against HIV. They stressed the importance of addressing homophobia, empowerment of women and girls, and HIV-related discrimination in the broader context of our everyday lives.
We still have much work to do. Too many people have been affected, and we must continue to drive our efforts forward to build healthier communities and reduce HIV-related disparities. As the day’s theme, “I Am My Brother/Sister’s Keeper,” attests, it will take the nation’s collective efforts, including on-the-ground grassroots advocacy, to reach an AIDS-free generation for all Americans. After our inspiring discussion yesterday, I am more hopeful than ever that we can reach that goal.
Valerie Jarrett is senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.