This month, AIDS United celebrates its 13th anniversary. Since 2011, the organization has worked alongside both major nation–wide partners and mighty grassroots movements to ensure the HIV epidemic is tackled in multiple areas: Namely grantmaking, capacity-building, Congressional legislation, and making space for those affected to tell their stories.
AIDS United began its history as a merger of two separate organizations — the AIDS Action Foundation, an advocacy organization, and the National AIDS fund, a grantmaking organization. Both these organizations trace their roots back to on-the-ground activism in the epidemic’s heights. Despite the desperate situation, the ongoing epidemic was mostly ignored by the Reagan administration. On-the-ground organizations such as AIDS United’s forebears worked tirelessly (and often thanklessly) to fill the government’s void. These were the original HIV advocates: The first to teach the nation about stigma, protection and dignity. These lessons are the backbone of our work today.
Upon its inception, AIDS United inherited this history and these duties. We take them just as seriously today as they were taken decades ago. In many ways, underlying causes for the initial outbreak remain just as persistent Minority and low-income communities are still disproportionally affected by HIV. Those communities, in turn, often don’t have the means to solve outbreaks themselves. For over a decade since its founding, AIDS United has identified and supported the grassroots organizations doing the work in these communities with grants, training, education, and more.
Today, thanks to successful programs such as the Ryan White Program and the growing number of people on PrEP, the impact from HIV on day-to-day is different from where it once was. Since our inception, a number of positive things have happened: FDA approved at home HIV testing, the breakthrough of PrEP and confirmation from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 2016 that carrying an undetectable viral load means you are untransmissible (u=u). Yet stigma and barriers to care remain a major obstacle.
13 years on, we are still fighting this fight, and we are winning. AIDS United, standing alongside partner organizations, advocates and medical professionals, will continue the fight for however long it is necessary. Despite progress, the core spirit of our parent organizations is incredibly relevant. The epidemic will never ebb if we allow it to simply transfer from one marginalized community to another. Our anniversary is a reminder to ourselves that our work is more important than ever, and we plan to work even harder every coming year.
How are we doing this?
With a wide variety of initiatives, such as the Southern HIV Impact Fund, Melanated Movement, the Harm Reduction Futures Fund and a slew of others. We’re also a top funder for HIV-related philanthropy in the world, and an organizer for the largest lobbying events in the nation for HIV funding called AIDSWatch (of which registration is now open). Our e-learning courses are a major development in our work for building health equity. To add, in 2023, our CEO Jesse Milan Jr. was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, offering direction to the Biden administration on ways the nation can ensure HIV’s past is never the future.
Our core priorities remain the following:
- Educating Congress about HIV.
- Budget and appropriations advocacy.
- Integrating HIV prevention, care and
treatment into health care.
- Strengthening the Ryan White Program.
- Investment in evidence-based prevention strategies.
- Greater diversity and inclusiveness.
- Pushing the president’s administration to prioritize HIV.
- Secure housing for everyone living with and vulnerable to HIV.
- Adopting a harm reduction approach.
- Ensuring the meaningful involvement of people living with HIV at all levels.
- Advocating for policy tactics to address the social determinants of health.
HIV does not wait, and nor will we.
This publication was developed with support from Partnering and Communicating Together (PACT) , a funded partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of HIV Prevention, and some of the nation’s leading organizations, including AIDS United representing the populations hardest-hit by HIV. Learn more at Let’s Stop HIV Together.