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AIDSWatch 2024: Ohio Delegation Helps Safeguard Public Funding for HIV

Julie Patterson
Director, AIDS Funding Collaborative
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April 15, 2024
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National Minority Health Month is designed to shine a spotlight on the health inequities faced by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in the United States. Black communities face unique systemic barriers to accessing HIV prevention and health care services. As a result, in 2021 Black people were 40% of people living with HIV, as well as 40% of new diagnoses. Black people are only 13% of the U.S. population.

Black communities face unique systemic barriers to accessing HIV prevention and health care services.

HIV programs play a crucial role in fighting these racial health inequities

As part of The Center for Community Solutions’ National Minority Health Month series, the AIDS Funding Collaborative is celebrating Congress’ decision to fund domestic HIV programs at the same level as 2023. The final 2024 Health and Human Services bill—approved by Congress and signed by the President—rejected extreme cuts to HIV funding proposed by House Republicans last July.People living with HIV and other advocates from around the country come together each year at AIDSWatch to advocate that Congress continue the fight to end the HIV epidemic. Since last summer, the AFC has participated in the #SaveHIVFunding campaign, following Congressional efforts to eliminate $767M in critical funds to end HIV as an epidemic. AFC staff also participated in AIDSWatch 2024 during March.  AIDSWatch is presented by AIDS United in partnership with the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation and the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus.

Ohioans living with HIV shared their life experiences, to frame the conversation.

AFC staff and two Northeast Ohio advocates traveled to Washington, D.C. in March as part of the Ohio delegation—along with nearly 500 advocates from 35 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia—for AIDSWatch 2024: the longest-running and largest constituent-led HIV federal advocacy convening in the nation. Advocates rallied on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol before conducting over 240 meetings with congressional leaders about national-level policies that will help end the HIV epidemic. The Ohio delegation at AIDSWatch this year included advocates from across the state who were of different ages, genders, races, income levels and professions. People living with HIV were key voices.

A win for HIV advocates, and not just in Ohio

During meetings on the Hill, Ohioans living with HIV shared their life experiences, to frame the conversation. This kind of testimonial is a crucial tool in fighting stigma and encouraging members of Congress to support funding for HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs, including the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) Initiative. Three counties in Ohio: Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Hamilton, have been receiving a portion of these funds awarded to HIV hotspots in the U.S. facing some of the highest numbers of new HIV diagnoses each year. Advocates also highlighted the importance of the federal Minority HIV/AIDS Fund and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, both of which have long histories of supporting transformative solutions in Ohio.Later that same week that HIV advocates visited DC, Congress approved federal funding bills for fiscal year 2024 with bipartisan support, barely avoiding a government shutdown and flat funding US HIV programs. They ultimately rejected the extreme $767M cuts proposed in the House of Representatives.“Congress needed to hear from community advocates in order to be successful in fighting these unnecessary deep cuts. Without this work and the concerted and brilliant efforts of so many HIV organizations … this win would not have been possible,” said Jeremiah Johnson, PrEP4All Executive Director and organizer of the #SaveHIVFunding campaign.“In the current political environment, this Congressional action is especially noteworthy. But we must never confuse this progress with success; our fights for funding, equity, and impact in treating and preventing this epidemic must continue,” said Mitchell Warren, Executive Director of the HIV prevention-focused organization AVAC.As we move further into 2024, Black communities and other people of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV in Ohio and across the US.  This funding outcome is encouraging, but advocates must remain vigilant because the next fiscal year is just around the corner.Julie Patterson is a member of the Cuyahoga Regional HIV Prevention and Care Planning Council and the Director of the AIDS Funding Collaborative.

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