We have come a long way in the fight against HIV/AIDS; yet the epidemic continues to affect millions of people around the world and in the United States. That’s why on this World AIDS day we’re renewing our commitment to achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Despite advances in health care access and education, more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the U.S., and the number of new infections has remained at around 50,000 per year for the last 10 years. HIV infection rates remain highest in the U.S. South, with cities like Miami, New Orleans, Baton Rouge (La.) and Jackson (Miss.) having the highest rates (in respective order) of new HIV infections in the country. Sadly, many of these places also have the least access to affordable preventive health care. Many Southern states, where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is worst, have not accepted federal funding to increase access to health care coverage under Medicaid. This needs to change -- Medicaid is the single largest source of coverage for people with HIV in the United States. Lawmakers need to put politics aside, and focus on what’s best for their citizens.
Planned Parenthood’s more than 700 health centers provide health care services that are critical in fighting the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Here’s some of the specific work we’ve been doing to combat AIDS as a health care provider:
- Planned Parenthood health centers provided 680,000 HIV tests in 2011—a 16 percent increase from 2010.
- Planned Parenthood affiliates reached more than one million people through education programs, including more than 600,000 teens.
- Planned Parenthood health centers are serving more men—who primarily visit Planned Parenthood for STD testing—as a part of Planned Parenthood’s commitment to expanding our reach, including to gay and bi-sexual men.
Of course, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is not confined to the U.S. Around the world, approximately 35 million people—including 18 million women—are currently living with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region hardest hit by the epidemic, women represent 60% of those living with HIV. In the 10 focus countries where Planned Parenthood Global is working with local partners to increase reproductive health care, we see the impact that HIV/AIDS and the lack of access to basic health care continues to have around the world.
The U.S. government plays a critical role in providing funding and setting policy for both domestic and global health care, including policies and funding related to HIV/AIDS. If we are to truly achieve an AIDS-free generation, we must encourage policymakers in the U.S. to take action to support increased access to health information and services in our fight for the healthiest generation. That’s why Planned Parenthood is working to ensure the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is fully implemented, which plays an important role in fighting AIDS. With HIV treated as a “pre-existing condition,” many of the 1.1 million Americans living with HIV were at risk of not having health insurance. But under Obamacare, they can no longer be denied insurance because they have HIV/AIDS.
We’re also working to engage young people and civil society to promote human rights in U.S. development and diplomacy efforts and advocate for the additional investments and policy changes needed to fully implement the PEPFAR Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation.
By investing in sex education at home and abroad, fully implementing the Affordable Care Act, increasing access to reproductive health care, and providing robust support for global health programs, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive health care, we can help change the course of this epidemic and continue the fight for the “Healthiest Generation Ever.”