Pictured Amy Ray at the AFC Reality event.
For the third and final community forum of its 2005 Speaker Series, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) presented 'Reality Check: HIV Prevention Works!' Sept. 21.
'There's nothing more important we can really do at this moment than talk about HIV prevention,' said Mark Ishaug, executive director of AFC.
Cynthia Tucker, AFC's director of grantmaking and moderator for the evening, stressed that the AIDS crisis is not over, especially with the disease disproportionately impacting African Americans.
David Holtgrave, Ph.D, a chair of the new Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that prevention is effective. 'What would the epidemic have looked like if prevention programs had not been in place?' he asked the audience. 'Clearly, it would have been worse.'
Through his research, Holtgrave estimates that between 200,000 and 1.5 million individuals have been saved from infection through prevention programs in the U.S. In addition, he added, 'I think they've also prevented deaths, as well,' among people with HIV/AIDS. This was in part due to the availability of newer and more effective drugs, and the prevention successes of the previous decade.
Although more than 236,000 people remain unaware of their HIV status, there have been successes, such as the reduction in perinatal infection, Holtgrave said.
Holtgrave revealed that as a consequence of failing to meet the CDC's national prevention goals—due to funding cutbacks and policy barriers—an excess of 130,000 individuals, or roughly enough people to fill three baseball stadiums, will be infected by 2010. He estimated that this excess will cost the country an additional $18 billion. Holtgrave stressed the need for an additional $300 million a year, per year, in order to avoid this excess. Holtgrave added that annual progress must be monitored, and more comprehensive prevention programs are necessary.
Julie Davids, the executive director of the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, spoke at length about the challenges to prevention justice. Davids is also on the steering committee of the Campaign to End AIDS.
'Prevention success is silent,' Davids said. This is partially because many do not want to discuss sex and drugs because of the stigma attached to it, she added. Another barrier is the lack of well-funded groups like drug companies and policy groups, Davids said.
Davids stressed that in the next decade, a baseline of care information and tools, an increased knowledge about sexuality in the U.S., and an additional research on risk networks is needed. 'A prevention justice movement can give people at risk power to change policies,' she said of the importance of such measures.
A strong movement can result in many gains, including a new generation of participants, added support and the destabilization of forces united against prevention work, she said. At the same time, those in the field will not see immediate results. 'We are not going to be able to win big for a while,' Davids said.
Davids also mentioned that talking openly about the disparities in HIV/AIDS is important. She added that, for instance, many still do not talk about LGBT people.
Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls was present for the discussion to support Holtgrave. 'It was great,' Ray said of the discussion. 'I'm a firm believer in AIDS activism. We do stuff locally in Atlanta, so it was good to come up here and see what's going on up here.'
AFC Offers New Ways For Others to Help
The AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) has offered new options to those who wish to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS. People can get an early start on their holiday shopping and purchase holiday cards through American Charity Cards. When people visit the AFC holiday store at www.ac.holidaycardstore.net/ac/main.aspx, 20 percent of the proceeds will go to the organization. More than 200 styles are available.
Also, AFC is a member of Community Shares of Illinois, a federation that offers employees the chance to make charitable contributions to over 70 non-profit groups through payroll deductions at work. To support AFC in this program, an employer must be affiliated with Community Shares of Illinois.
For a list of participating employers visit www.communitysharesillinois.org/nonprofits/index.php?link=3.