AIDSWatch 2014: Science and advocacy coming together

This week, HIV and AIDS advocates from across the United States gathered in Washington, DC, for AIDSWatch. FHI 360, a global leader in the response to HIV and AIDS since the earliest years of the epidemic, was a sponsor of this important community initiative.

What is AIDSWatch?

AIDSWatch is an annual event in DC. Hundreds of people come from across the United States to educate members of Congress and other senior government officials about the impact of HIV in their communities and lives and to discuss strategies for ending the HIV epidemic. Public health officials, policy advocates, leaders from community-based organizations and people living with HIV seek to gain vital support for lifesaving programs and services.

The event includes a briefing on key policy issues and HIV-related programs, scheduled visits with members of Congress and the Positive Leadership awards reception. Participants learn about the budget and appropriations process, critical programs serving people with HIV — such as the Ryan White CARE Act and the Affordable Care Act — and effective HIV prevention strategies. The event includes a “telling your story” session to help participants communicate their experience to policymakers and networking sessions to share resources.

Why is AIDSWatch important to the HIV and AIDS community?

Since the first days of the epidemic, community leadership has been a hallmark of the global response. Today, 1.1 million people in the United States are estimated to be living with HIV. Another 50,000 people are estimated to become HIV-positive each year. Over the past half-decade, new medications and strategies have been developed that significantly extend the longevity and quality of life for those infected. Biomedical interventions, such as antiretroviral drugs, also offer the opportunity to prevent new infections. With the expansion of health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, the United States has a critical opportunity to invest in programs and services that can bring an end to AIDS. To achieve the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and attain an AIDS-free generation, our nation must maintain support for research, prevention, care and treatment, housing and other important services.

How is FHI 360 involved in community engagement?

Through many programs, FHI 360 builds partnerships between persons affected by HIV, community leaders and public health officials. For example, the Be the Generation program, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within the U.S. National Institutes of Health, developed a partnership with community leaders and organizations to build knowledge of and support for HIV prevention research. That effort supported the HIV Prevention Trials Network and other clinical research groups in conducting successful trials across the United States. Other FHI 360-managed programs, like Testing Makes Us Stronger and Reasons, support community organizations that promote HIV testing among young black gay men and young Latino men. Our sponsorship of AIDSWatch 2014 reflects our commitment to working in partnership to bring an end to AIDS.

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