AIDS advocates are beginning to bring the issue of HIV and AIDS to the front pages again. The battle against AIDS is not over is the message they are sending. There have been some significant breakthroughs to combat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, including a variety of medication and preventative measures including education. But we still do not have a cure or a vaccine. With a rise in the infection rate among gay and bisexual men, we still have a crisis.
This eruption of activity suggests that we may be at another "critical moment," as has occurred at three critical earlier junctures of the epidemic. In 1982, the first wave of the response to AIDS was begun to provide supportive services and palliative care to ever-growing numbers of the sick and dying. The world's first and longest-lasting AIDS service organization, Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) was launched in 1982. The following year, a newly formed People With AIDS Coalition (PWAC) enunciated The Denver Principles to promote self-empowerment and confront AIDSphobia, homophobia, and the dehumanization of people living with HIV.
The second, and best-known, activist wave began in 1987, taking a far more public and confrontational approach. Its centerpiece was the creation and rapid proliferation of chapters of ACT UP. But that year also brought the AIDS Memorial Quilt to national attention, saw a major march on Washington focused on AIDS, and marked the publication of the landmark book And the Band Played On, the first to reach mainstream public awareness.
Yet if opportunities are expanding, so too are threats. Global commitment is wavering in the funding of ARV programs that have saved so many lives and prevented countless new infections. Revisions to international protocols threaten to reinstate strict limitations on the ability to override patent to make generic ARVs available. HIV transmission rate in the U.S. have not declined, and new infections among gay men -- most notably young men of color -- are on the rise. Harsh law enforcement measures are being used to criminalize sex by people with HIV regardless of evidence of transmission risk.
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