ACR Health Marks World Aids Day; Despite Progress, Gaps In Access To Services Remain
COVID-19 has been with us for nearly two years, but Syracuse's ACR Health took time out on World AIDS Day Wednesday to commemorate the 40 years since the since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US. A virtual presentation featured music, poetry, meditation, and remarks from ACR Health Executive Director Lisa Alford. She says despite progress, there are gaps in access to prevention and treatment services.
"This includes communities that have already historically been disproportionately impacted, and yet underserved. They include adolescent girls and young women, children, people of color, men who have sex with men, transgender and gender non-conforming people, people who inject drugs, people who are incarcerated, and other less-resourced populations."
Alford says ACR Health has tried to meet the need with peer educators, street outreach in areas with high populations of people of color, and partnering with Black health and faith based initiatives to offer education, counseling, and testing. A poem by Julene Tripp Weaver captures what HIV/AIDS survivors have endured. Here’s an excerpt performed by K. Daniel Reed, Director of Prevention and Community Initiatives at ACR Health.
"We've given ourselves over to a cause. We've come through. We are the lucky ones. it is a cautious tale to be lost and never found, to live beyond what was predicted. We choose what we believe. We give what we can. We are sinkable yet resistant. Our ghosts buoy us. Year to year we live, remembering precious lost lives."
More than 36 million people worldwide have died from AIDS related illnesses, including 700,000 in the US alone. Lisa Alford says much of what has been learned from HIV/AIDS has helped inform the local response to COVID.
"During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we joined with other community agencies in establishing the COVID-19 coalition to provide masks, sanitizer, and other personal protective equipment and supplies, and distributed them in our mobile unit van."
Alford says the ongoing COVID pandemic has reminded us that we’re an interconnected and interdependent global community. She says like COVID, everyone can help end the HIV epidemic by knowing their status and getting tested.