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Creating Change plenary addresses HIV/AIDS in trans women, Black men
Videos below article
by Matt Simonette
2016-01-25

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Health officials and advocates discussed the successes and gaps in prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS at a plenary talk at the 2016 Creating Change conference Jan. 23.

Phill Wilson opened by recalling the day when he was told that he had HIV.

"When I was diagnosed with HIV, my doctors told me to go home, get my affairs in order, and wait to die," Wilson said. "… In April, I'll be 60 years old. This is what HIV looks like."

He surveyed prevention tools he said could "virtually break the back of the epidemic," among them, condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis ( PrEP ), post-exposure prophylaxis ( PEP ) and Treatment as Prevention ( TasP ). He also reported on the Affordable Care Act and and the Obama administration's 2020 National HIV/AIDS strategy for the United States.

"Advances in testing, treatment and prevention make it easier to envision the end of the epidemic," said Dr. Leo Moore of University of California at Los Angeles. "But we know that prevention, like condoms, is not one size fits all."

Moore addressed the rising number of infections in young gay Black men, which have increased 8,235 in 2005 to 10,080 in 2014. The statistic continues to puzzle researchers since members of that demographic statistically engage in risky behaviors less frequently. Moore then discussed how various social determinants could impact those numbers.

Cecilia Chung of the Transgender Law Center talked about the invisibility and erasure that trans individuals face, noting that more people have claimed to see a ghost than have said that they know a trans person. She urged advocates to ask health and law enforcement officials if they collect data on transgender persons, noting that it is as simple as having separate questions on forms asking which gender identity a person identifies as, and which one they were assigned at birth.

"When those answers don't match—bingo, you found us," Chung said.

National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director and CEO Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks described steps she took in equipping her organization to tackle HIV/AIDS issues, noting that they addressed stigma and isolation felt by persons with HIV/AIDS; treatment and prevention; syndemics; and building leadership among young Black LGBT individuals.

"We cannot allow HIV to be inevitable for another generation of young people," Lettman-Hicks said.

The presentation concluded with activist and author Barbara Smith receiving the Susan J. Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement from the Task Force.

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