President and CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, President of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts
On World AIDS Day, we recognize that HIV/AIDS continues to be an urgent human rights and public health crisis, impacting millions in the U.S. and around the world. Fortunately, we know what works when it comes to ending this epidemic: ensuring access to a full range of sexual and reproductive health care and rights; combating stigma, discrimination, and policy barriers that restrict the ability of all people to access life saving information and services; and centering our work around the needs and the voices of marginalized communities.
We also know that, like most health conditions, politics and social factors impact the way the HIV/AIDS epidemic works. HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, including gay and bisexual men, black women, young people, and transgender people. And social factors such as poverty, gender inequality, discrimination, lack of education, and violence put individuals and communities at increased risk of acquiring HIV and compound the impact of HIV/AIDS.
That holds true right here in Massachusetts. Overall, new HIV infections decreased by 47% in Massachusetts between 2000 and 2014, but health inequities continue to persist for certain marginalized communities according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The proportion of new HIV infection diagnoses among men who have sex with men increased from 32% in 2004 to 46% in 2013. Black and Latino individuals in Massachusetts are diagnosed with HIV infection at levels ten and six times that of white individuals, respectively.
That’s why at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM), our doors stay open. We will never back down and we will never stop fighting to ensure that Planned Parenthood patients have access to the care they need, including prevention, testing, counseling, and treatment of HIV/AIDS, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, country of origin, or postal code.
Here are a few ways Planned Parenthood is working to end HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts.
Providing Access to a Full Range of Sexual Health Care – including PrEP
Starting in September, PPLM made the mission-driven decision to begin offering pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) at all of our health centers. This daily medication helps prevent HIV in those who may be at high-risk for acquiring the virus. By adding PrEP to our broad scope of services, we are well-positioned to meet an even wider range of sexual and reproductive health care needs.
Our doors are open to everyone and we work hard to advocate for patients and reduce the financial, geographical and social barriers that stand between people and health care. Creating better access to PrEP, and sexual health care in general, is integral to the health and well-being of our communities.
Getting to Zero Together
PPLM is a proud member of the Getting to Zero Coalition, a dynamic group of advocates, health care partners, and community organizations all working together toward the goals of getting to zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS deaths, and zero-HIV related stigma in Massachusetts.
Working in tandem with a diverse group of coalition partners and community members is essential to ending HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts. You can read about Getting to Zero's comprehensive plan to eliminate HIV discrimination, AIDS related deaths, and new HIV infections here.
Advocating at the Massachusetts State House
Every legislative session, the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund advocates for policies that would increase access to sexual health care and LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. In addition, we advocate for increased funding for family planning services, including STD testing and treatment. Passing proactive policies to address sexual health inequities is key to reducing the number of new HIV infections in the Commonwealth.
Sign up for our email alerts to receive updates about ways you can take action in the fight to improve sexual health in Massachusetts – and save the date for the Sexual Health Lobby Day at the Massachusetts State House on January 31st.
Every individual should have access to the care they need to control their body and their future. This is true whether they are HIV-positive or not. Now is the time to move forward not backward, on this issue, which has impacted so many. Let’s protect our progress, and double down on our efforts to achieve an AIDS-free generation, here in Massachusetts and across the world.