The time to act is now!

GA Voice - - Georgia News -

This is our time. The time to end the AIDS epi­demic in our com­mu­nity is now.

Now we have ef­fec­tive treat­ment ca­pa­ble of pre­vent­ing pro­gres­sion to AIDS in peo­ple with HIV, of­ten al­low­ing them to live a nor­mal life­span. Now we have the tools to vastly de­crease new HIV in­fec­tions through ef­fec­tive treat­ment of peo­ple who have HIV (treat­ment is preven­tion) and com­bi­na­tion preven­tion strate­gies in­clud­ing pre-ex­po­sure pro­phy­laxis (PrEP) for those who do not. And now we have a blue rib­bon task force on HIV/AIDS to pro­vide trans­parency, lead­er­ship, and a Strat­egy to End AIDS in Ful­ton County. The ques­tion is no longer, “Can we do it?” but “Will we do it?”

Our an­swer has been dis­ap­point­ing thus far. Fi­nally, it is time to say, “Yes, we can and we will!” And we must say it in uni­son, as a com­mu­nity. Will you be part of that voice?

On World AIDS Day 2014, Ful­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers Chair­man John Eaves and Com­mis­sioner Joan Garner par­tic­i­pated in an event at which they heard that At­lanta’s young black gay and bi­sex­ual men are in­fected with HIV at rates sim­i­lar to parts of Africa. They also heard that, as of that date, metro At­lanta ranked first na­tion­ally in its rate of new HIV di­ag­noses, and that, af­ter 30 years, we still have no co­or­di­nated strat­egy to at­tack this prob­lem.

Com­mis­sioner Garner asked, “What can Ful­ton County do?” The re­sponse was, “Take lead­er­ship.” And Chair­man Eaves re­sponded, “We will do it.” Two weeks later, they led the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers in cre­at­ing the Ful­ton County Task Force on HIV/AIDS. This sen­tinel mo­ment marked the first time that elected of­fi­cials have taken con­crete ac­tion to se­ri­ously ad­dress our epi­demic.

The Task Force adopted as its pri­mary mis­sion to cre­ate and over­see the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a “Strat­egy to End AIDS in Ful­ton County.” The Task Force adopted the over­all goals of the 2020 Na­tional HIV/AIDS Strat­egy as the key goals of the new Ful­ton Coun-

ty strat­egy. These goals are to:

“The HIV/AIDS epi­demic has plagued metro At­lanta, in­clud­ing Ful­ton County, for far too long. We have lost too many, and con­tinue to see too many suf­fer need­lessly.”

Re­duce new HIV in­fec­tions In­crease ac­cess to care and im­prove health out­comes for peo­ple liv­ing with HIV

Re­duce HIV-re­lated dis­par­i­ties and health in­equities

Achieve a more co­or­di­nated lo­cal re­sponse to the epi­demic

With in­put from col­leagues in New York, Chicago, San Fran­cisco, and else­where, the Task Force has cre­ated a plan to ac­com­plish this work.

But the Task Force can­not be suc­cess­ful with­out ro­bust com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and in­put. The Com­mu­nity En­gage­ment Plan will evolve, but ini­tially in­cludes an online Com­mu­nity In­put Sur­vey to so­licit rec­om­men­da­tions for Strat­egy Ob­jec­tives, and a se­ries of four Com­mu­nity Lis­ten­ing Ses­sions to fa­cil­i­tate di­rect feed­back to the Task Force in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber. The sur­vey is now avail­able at www.sur­vey­mon­key.com/r/HNYD87X.

The HIV/AIDS epi­demic has plagued metro At­lanta, in­clud­ing Ful­ton County, for far too long. We have lost too many and con­tinue to see too many suf­fer need­lessly. Now we have a chance. Will we take it?

Me­lanie Thompson, MD is prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor of the AIDS Re­search Con­sor­tium of At­lanta (ARCA) and Chair of the Preven­tion and Care Com­mit­tee of the Task Force.

Con­tact the Task Force di­rectly at fchatf.gov@gmail.com

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