By Venita Ray
The United States Conference on AIDS (USCA), which just convened on September 7, was an informative event, once again this year. Expected changes in the Affordable Care Act, proposed cuts to Medicaid and health care delivery were some of the key issues of discussion.
As director of the END HIV Houston campaign, I participated in six panels from the HIV in the South track and the Ending the Epidemic track. Both covered hard-hitting challenges, as well as opportunities for change, that align with our cause of ending the HIV epidemic in Houston.
Although the South is only 38 percent of the U.S. population (according to the United States Census Bureau), it represents at least 44 percent of all HIV cases in the country, making it the epicenter of the epidemic. The HIV in the South track focused on the specific issues effecting southern states, including:
- Limited access to health care services due to the lack of Medicaid expansion
- Issues of access to health care further exacerbated by poverty and other social drivers with a special focus on communities of color
- Rural communities, mass incarceration and the effects of religious freedom laws
I presented on the discriminatory impact of HIV criminalization laws and how meaningful involvement of people living with HIV is instrumental to ending the stigma.
I was energized to be around other cities and states committed to ending the HIV epidemic in their communities. It was also humbling to see that our plan is considered cutting edge in its approach to ending the epidemic because we’re using an intersectional and social justice approach. I was also happy to share our planned strategies with other cities interested in developing their own ending the epidemic plan, because we’re all in this together.
USCA is always an enriching, motivational and uplifting event that leaves me energized and empowered with more knowledge to continue this fight. Houston is a member of the ACT NOW: END AIDS Coalition that sponsored the opening day luncheon plenary and debuted an inspiring, montage video featuring all 14 city and state ending the epidemic campaigns. Watch the video to learn what we and other cities are doing, and join us in our fight.
Be in it to END it. Sign up for updates on our END HIV Houston campaign on our site. #ENDHIVHou