This summer the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy is leading a number of regional listening sessions across the country. These sessions are a chance for officials to present information and get feedback on the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the HIV Care Continuum Initiative. I was pleased to attend the session in Chicago this Tuesday.
Tuesday’s presentation covered the state of HIV/AIDS and current initiatives on a national, state, and local level. Speakers included Congressman Danny Davis, a panel from local organizations, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Illinois and Chicago Departments of Public Health, and the Office of National AIDS Policy.
Our executive director, Cheryl Potts, was part of the local panel. She was representing both Alexian Brothers Housing and Health Alliance and the Chicago Area HIV Integrated Services Council. Integrating services through the continuum of prevention, testing, linkage to care, and retention was a theme of both her comments and the full session.
Speakers also talked about changes coming from the Affordable Care Act and spoke about groups that are most affected by HIV, like injection drug users and men who have sex with men, particularly young black men. While speakers acknowledged many challenges, they also expressed a lot of optimism about strategies to treat and prevent HIV and AIDS.
Two presenters found it worthwhile to read the vision statement of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy aloud: “The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”