650+ Advocates Gather in Washington, D.C. to Meet with Members of Congress around HIV Funding and Policies, HIV Criminalization Reform, and other Key Issues at Stake for People Living with HIV in the United States

March 29, 2017, Washington D.C. – AIDSWatch, the largest constituent-based HIV advocacy event in the U.S., concluded in Washington, D.C. yesterday. Presented by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, the event brought over 650 advocates from 34 states, DC and Puerto Rico to the nation’s capital to meet with members of the House and Senate to discuss the policies and resources needed to end the HIV epidemic, and protections for programs critical to the health and wellbeing of people living with and affected by HIV. Over 260 meetings with 80 members of Congress were held this year.

Building on Elizabeth Taylor’s work to bring HIV and AIDS into global spotlight and to pass key legislation such as the Ryan White CARE Act, AIDSWatch, which will commemorate its 25th anniversary next year, mobilizes hundreds of advocates to meet with their elected officials and trains them to bring skills back to their home constituencies.

AIDSWatch focused on access to care for people living with HIV, including continued investment in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and ongoing federal funding for HIV prevention, housing, and research; and comprehensive sexual health education. In addition, advocates expressed concerns around the destructive consequences of HIV criminalization laws, which not only create a challenging legal environment for people living with HIV, but also undermine public health and increase the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV testing, treatment and disclosure.

On Monday evening, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation conferred the third annual Elizabeth Taylor Legislative Leadership Award to Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), co-chair of the Congressional HIV Caucus, and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) for their leadership and support around HIV issues. Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ), and three HIV advocates were recipients of leadership awards, presented by AIDSWatch and the US People Living with HIV Caucus, respectively.

On Tuesday morning, an advocates’ rally was held outside of the U.S. Capitol ahead of meetings with Members of Congress. “This year, advocates are highly energized to address the new political environment and speak truth to power,” said AIDS United President & CEO Jesse Milan, Jr. “We have the science and tools to prevent new infections and to help people to live long and well with HIV, but until we can guarantee that every person has access to these advances, we will continue to miss our mark. AIDSWatch channels our movement’s powerful legacy of grassroots advocacy to make Congress understand that the needs of people living with and at risk for HIV cannot be ignored.”

“The history of HIV/AIDS is a story of tragedy, courage, and progress,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Thanks to the relentless advocacy of AIDS United and communities across America, we have gone from attending two funerals a day to celebrating the weddings and retirements of our loved ones living with AIDS. By sharing their stories, AIDSWatch advocates are advancing progress as we face new challenges, including TrumpCare which would strip health care away from millions of Americans – and have disastrous results on the support ACA provides to people living with HIV/AIDS. Together, we can welcome the first AIDS-free generation by rejecting TrumpCare, investing in research, reducing new HIV infections, eliminating HIV-related health disparities, and committing to making HIV history.”

“I am proud of the bipartisan legacy we have built to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, here at home and across the globe,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13). “AIDSWatch was a powerful reminder that HIV/AIDS is not abstract – it affects 1.1 million people and their families in this country. We are at a turning point – we must continue investing in critical, evidence-based programs that will bring an end to this disease.”

AIDSWatch is organized by the Treatment Access Expansion Project (TAEP), AIDS United and the US People Living with HIV Caucus. Attendees included Elizabeth Taylor’s family members; Joel Goldman, Managing Director, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation; Actor Daniel Franzese; Chandi Moore, trans activist; Eric Leonardis; as well as advocacy organizations and advocates from across the U.S.

PHOTO LINK: https://sunshinesachs.egnyte.com/fl/PREcXCmgzQ
Photo Credit: Sean Black for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation

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ABOUT AIDSWATCH: AIDSWatch is an advocacy event that provides participants with current knowledge on the state of HIV/AIDS research, prevention, treatment and important policy developments. Participants are trained in effective advocacy skills, and are coached on how best to share this information with policymakers and their community. After training, participants meet Members of Congress to share their personal stories about the impact of current policies in their community, highlight the importance of HIV as an issue to their constituents and present a face to the issue. Learn more at aidsunited.org/aidswatch.

ABOUT THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR AIDS FOUNDATION (ETAF): ETAF was established by Elizabeth Taylor in 1991 to provide grants to existing organizations for programs that offer direct care services to people living with HIV and AIDS. Since its inception, ETAF has concentrated on supporting marginalized communities, and has expanded to also fund innovative HIV education and advocacy programs. Today, ETAF is leading an international coalition to achieve UNAIDS 90-90-90 HIV treatment goals in Mulanje District, Malawi by 2020. With key domestic advocacy funding focuses on comprehensive sexual health education and HIV criminalization reform, ETAF continues to bring the marginalized to the center of attention and advocate for their rights. To date, ETAF has granted to more than 675 organizations in 44 countries and 42 states in the U.S. To learn more or to make a donation please visit www.etaf.org.