What Will We Do in This Defining Moment to End HIV/AIDS?

Life is about those defining moments – and perhaps most importantly, what we do with them. The last 30 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic have been full of these moments, when science, technology, advocacy, or policy have redefined efforts to support and treat people living with HIV and to prevent new infections. This year’s United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) has highlighted many of the game changers over the last three decades – the first HIV diagnostic tests, the development of protease inhibitors and combination therapies, the streamlining of drug regimens, drug assistance programs, (PEP) post-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), HPTN 052 and treatment as prevention, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, among others. What these show us is not only how far we have come, but that there is hope that the end of the epidemic is within our reach.

This was the first conference where I sat in the audience and listened as multiple individuals not only shared a vision for the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but made me believe that it is possible within our lifetime. Dr. Thomas Frieden has included HIV among CDC’s list of “Winnable Battles.” The cover of the current issue of POZ magazine states “What We Need to End AIDS.” An entire generation has grown up never knowing a world without HIV and it is incredible to think that we are at a point where the discussion focuses on what we need to do to finally put HIV to rest.

To paraphrase Phill Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute and Friday plenary speaker, our toolbox of traditional prevention strategies, new technologies and biomedical tools, policy, and science are going to have to come together with bold, courageous, and radical thinking if we are to see a world without HIV/AIDS.

The science cannot stand alone. Political will and financial capital are the key to success and two of the greatest challenges in our current unfavorable economic and political climate. Yet, we cannot relent; we are closer than ever. As Dr. Cal Cohen, Director of Research at Community Research Initiative of New England, quoted Bill Clinton, “May HIV flow from our blood into our history books.”

And so we must ask, what will we do in this defining moment to end HIV/AIDS?

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