Getting to Zero (Winter 2015)
A new year has begun and we are fortunate to see some glimmers of hope in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
With its increased staffing, ALRP has been able to handle more cases, especially in the areas of housing and immigration, where there is great unmet need for legal services.
Additionally, the City is contemplating increased capacity to serve people with HIV by committing to a goal of Getting To Zero: zero new HIV transmissions, zero deaths from HIV, and zero stigma. This is welcome news to ALRP and the other San Francisco HIV/AIDS service providers who have spent the last several years fighting budget cuts. But Getting To Zero is no small task, and it will require considerable resources to make a catchy name become a reality.
With new tools to prevent the spread of HIV, including the use of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), San Francisco can realistically envision a day when we will drop from 300 new HIV cases a year to zero. Prevention, however, is not the only goal. Keeping folks in treatment is essential for San Francisco to reach the goal of zero deaths from HIV, and the required healthcare changes extend beyond increasing accessibility to HIV/AIDS specific medications. Many people living with HIV/AIDS have multiple diagnoses and there is much more that the City needs to do in terms of mental health and substance abuse treatment. We also have to ensure that everyone living with HIV has access to and can remain in stable affordable housing.
While one would hope that in San Francisco we would no longer experience discrimination against people with HIV, that is not the case – ignorance and fear are alive and well. The goal of eliminating HIV stigma is lofty but vital.
Unfortunately, the budget battles are still not over. Years of funding cuts have taken their toll on service providers even as our clients face greater needs. Despite these hurdles, ALRP is grateful to be in a city that has long led the world in how to address the AIDS epidemic, and we are committed to the fight for as long as our clients need our help.