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A new AIDS crisis is coming to New York

Ceo | , Gmhc | , Marjorie Hill | , Ph.D. | 8/31/2011, 5:21 p.m.

This new AIDS crisis is coming at a time when state and federal funding for AIDS is being cut in the current economic crisis. While New York has one of the best AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) in the country to make sure that all people with HIV can afford their drugs, other states have long waiting lists to receive these lifesaving treatments. And with most HIV infections disproportionately hitting poorer people of color and others who are disenfranchised, the challenge of getting them the treatment, services and prevention they need is even more challenging.

The country took a big step forward in this fight on July 13 when President Barack Obama announced the nation's first National HIV/AIDS Strategy, one that GMHC led the call for. It stresses the need for much more culturally relevant interventions targeting gay men and communities of color and the desperate need for greater cooperation among government, community- and faith-based organizations, and the private sector.

We are all going to have to pull together to meet this new challenge, and GMHC will continue to advocate vociferously for the public policies and funding needed to address it. As our city confronts a spike in bias-related violence, prejudice also fuels the spread of HIV. We have to see racism and anti-gay bigotry as the public health problems that they are if we are to get new HIV infections under control. We must also understand the central role that HIV stigma, intertwined with antigay stigma, continues to play in the epidemic.

In the midst of this, GMHC is going through a big transition of our own. Our 15-year lease on West 24th Street is up, and we had to move or face tens of millions more in costs. After a difficult search, we found a great new space on West 33rd Street that will save us millions that can be put right back into direct services and allow us to consolidate on two sprawling floors rather than the 12 smaller ones we currently occupy. We will continue to provide HIV testing and prevention services at a new Wellness Center in Chelsea.

GMHC and all HIV/AIDS service providers need your help and support to meet these new challenges. Concern about AIDS in the U.S. has receded as other crises have come to the forefront, and attention has justly shifted to the AIDS pandemic in the third world. But please remember that the crisis at home is far from over.

I am honored to be leading GMHC at this time. I have a job where I hear virtually each day from people who tell me, "Thank God for GMHC" or "GMHC saved my life." While we look forward to the day when our services will no longer be needed, the time is now for us all to ramp up our commitment to serving those with HIV and vastly intensify our prevention efforts so that fewer and fewer will test positive.