When AIDS first hit us, it was like a bomb went off in our community, leaving too few survivors. A generation of gay men suffered and died. Some buried partners. We all buried friends - too many friends. In spite of our grief and fear, we fought for compassionate care and medical interventions. We fought for funding and against government silence. We fought to end a plague that decimated our community, and to make the dying stop.
That fight was bold and courageous. More than three decades later, our efforts to end this epidemic must be equally bold. We still mourn our profound losses, but today we have increased knowledge and better tools to fight with. #TestTreatPrevent.
Unfortunately, the stigma and shame remain. But we are dealing with a virus, not a moral condition. We have to fight through that stigma and shame, and talk openly to get to no new cases - through testing, treatment and new prevention tools.
The San Diego LGBT Community Center, which has been part of the fight since the beginning, remains committed to the battle against HIV/AIDS. Today, The Center and AIDS Walk San Diego call for San Diegans to join us and commit to reducing new cases in San Diego to zero within the next ten years.
We can be the generation that fights to end new cases, that stops the epidemic-level spread of HIV/AIDS. We can make it happen.
To reduce new infections, we must provide HIV/AIDS education without shame or fear, as well as access to condoms and medications for all who choose them. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis - treatments like Truvada) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) are revolutionary tools in this fight, and offer the most promising hope we have seen in prevention. There will be even more next-generation drugs behind these.
We must ensure those who have the virus can access the medical care and medications that will keep their viral loads undetectable so they will stay healthier and much, much less likely to transmit the virus. We need everyone to get tested and encourage others to do the same - frequently. With an intensified focus on prevention, testing and treatment, new infections can and will decrease. Ending new cases will decrease the transmission rate, which will help end this epidemic.
Let’s end new cases of HIV/AIDS in San Diego. Let’s do it for those who fought before us, and for ourselves. Let’s do it for those we’ve loved and love. Let’s do it for those that come next and could grow up in a world less afraid of this virus.
We can do this.
#bethegeneration #NoNewCases #TestTreatPrevent #EndTheEpidemicSanDiego
(Editor's note: This post originally appeared on the San Diego LGBT Community Center's Weekly E-News.)