General Articles

Statement of SIECUS President, Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., on World AIDS Day 2008

New York, NYToday is World AIDS Day. It is a day for us to remember our friends, family, and loved ones who have lost their lives to this epidemic, and show our support for the millions and millions across the globe who are living with HIV and AIDS. At the same time, we use this day to take stock of the progress and shortcomings of the last year, while gathering our strength to fight onward over the long months and years ahead.

Once again, over the past year, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has provided unparalleled resources to combat the spread of AIDS and to provide treatment for those affected by AIDS and HIV. But, Congress has not enacted fixes to PEPFAR that would make it even more efficient and effective, particularly on the issue of prevention. Still in place are arbitrary funding requirements that emphasize flawed abstinence programs over sound prevention methods, and ideologically driven restrictions that prevent international organizations from concentrating their efforts on communities like youth, young women, and commercial sex workers who need the most immediate help. In the coming year, President-Elect Obama should work with the Congress to mitigate the impact of these and other harmful policies and practices that hamper PEPFAR and keep a good program from truly being a great program.
Our attention should also increasingly turn inward. We have an epidemic here at home that has been neglected for far too long. It is time for Democrats, who will now control expanded majorities in the Senate and the House, as well as the White House, to fulfill promises to devise and implement a National AIDS Strategy (NAS). 
The NAS, however, must be more than a paper tiger. It must be a comprehensive, long-ranging plan that not only incorporates the best practices and policies, but is also fully funded and properly managed. The stakes are too high for the federal government to phone it in on this one. And, of course, the NAS must incorporate policies and funds that support comprehensive sex education as an integral part of HIV prevention. There is no more cost effective or surefire way to defeat the HIV/AIDS epidemic than by dedicating resources to teach young people how to protect themselves for the rest of their lives.

World AIDS Day is a day of mixed emotion for many of us. As we look back on the sadness and loss that this terrible disease has inflicted, we are always able to turn our gaze forward to the possibility that this year could be the year we turn things around. Let’s work together to make sure that happens.