Los Angeles — Today, on the 29th annual observance of World AIDS Day, Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur issued the following statement:
“Today we mourn the millions lost during the more than three decades of the AIDS epidemic, celebrate the enormous strides the scientific community has made in treating and preventing transmission of HIV and remember that even now we must remain vigilant. HIV still threatens the LGBT community, particularly people of color, and the progress we have made is itself under threat as a result of the recent presidential election.
While recent years have seen the development of medications that have turned what once was a fatal diagnosis into a long-term, manageable condition, and that protect HIV-negative people from contracting the virus, HIV is still very much a threat to our community.
Those advances remain out of reach for millions of people in the United States and around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that transgender women globally are 49 times more likely to have HIV than the general population. The transmission rate in young gay men increased 133 percent between 2001 and 2011. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated half of gay or bisexual black men and a quarter of gay and bisexual Latino men can expect to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes. Poverty and lack of access to healthcare still leave millions here at home and around the world without life-saving therapies to treat HIV or to prevent its transmission. And laws enacted in the early days of the HIV epidemic still criminalize and stigmatize people living with HIV, in California and across the country.
The recent presidential election represents a grave threat to programs that fund HIV treatment and research and that provide healthcare to people living with HIV. Equality California is working with a coalition of other LGBT, HIV service and civil rights organizations to modernize laws that unfairly target people with HIV. We are educating our community about the benefits and availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which has the potential to end transmission of HIV. We are working in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. to protect the Affordable Care Act, which brought vital healthcare coverage for the first time to millions of people previously ineligible due to HIV status or other preexisting conditions. While we have made important strides, the battle against HIV stigma, to end the epidemic and to care for people living with HIV is clearly far from over.”
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization dedicated to creating a fair and just society. Our mission is to achieve and maintain full and lasting equality, acceptance, and social justice for all people in our diverse LGBT communities, inside and outside of California. Our mission includes advancing the health and well-being of LGBT Californians through direct healthcare service advocacy and education. Through electoral, advocacy, education and mobilization programs, we strive to create a broad and diverse alliance of LGBT people, educators, government officials, communities of color and faith, labor, business, and social justice communities to achieve our goals. www.eqca.org