Since the 1980s in New York City, grassroots activists from the LGBTQ, HIV+, and People with AIDS communities have worked hard to stay visible and vocal, demanding action to halt the spread of AIDS. They’ve called on policymakers to take a holistic view and confront the underlying factors that spread HIV and AIDS: racism, homophobia and economic inequality.
And this year, we’ve seen a major victory: a bold blueprint to end AIDS in New York state by 2020. The blueprint, issued by Governor Cuomo after years of advocacy by community organizations run by and for people with HIV and AIDS, is a groundbreaking governmental commitment unlike anything we’ve seen in the past.
And what makes one hopeful about the blueprint?
The blueprint was developed by a group of community-based experts working alongside public health policy experts, so it’s comprehensive and addresses the root causes of the spread of HIV and AIDS.
The blueprint commits millions of dollars to time-tested, effective strategies for reducing the number of people who will contract HIV and the number of people who will then develop AIDS.
The blueprint includes many policy changes that North Star Fund grantee partners–who are based in communities where racism, homophobia and economic inequality generally intersect–have been calling for throughout the epidemic. Changes that include:
- Making it easier for people to get and keep condoms – previously, condoms have been used by police and prosecutors as evidence of prostitution, and police have confiscated condoms in the course of routine stops. North Star Fund grantee partner Streetwise & Safe has been one of many groups working on this change for years.
- More stable housing options for people who are HIV+ including plans to address housing discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS With the support of North Star dollars over many years, Movement Leadership grantee partner VOCAL-NY has fought long and hard for access to affordable housing for people with HIV and AIDS.
- Comprehensive sex education so that young people understand how to avoid becoming HIV positive. A seeming ‘no-brainer’, North Star Fund grantee partner Young Women’s Health Advocacy Coalition has pushed for years for more effective sex education programs.
The blueprint will need strong community support in its first decade, and a lot could change to undermine it. Community leaders whose lives depend on these policy changes will have to continue to keep up the pressure.
Your support enables North Star to be there with them in support when other funders claim that some of these organizations are too small or without the necessary track record. Support for the leadership and organizing of people directly affected by this issue has been critical in the creation of the blueprint to end AIDS in New York State by 2020. This pride month, let’s celebrate what we’ve made possible together.
Update (July 2, 2015):
Days after this story was published, the New York State legislature ended for 2015 without passing any of the legislative changes identified in the blueprint. Although the governor allocated millions of dollars in his budget, hundreds of millions of funding is still needed to enact the blueprint strategies. Capital New York has an excellent summary of which parts of the blueprint advanced and which didn't. We'll continue to support the leaders and organizations who partnered with the governor to create this visionary plan. So can you!