After more than three decades of battling AIDS, we’ve gotten complacent about HIV infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 40,000 new people a year in the U.S. become infected with HIV. The decrease in the number of stricken women has been offset by a sharp increase in youth, especially young African American men sleeping with men. Although it is no longer a death sentence, HIV patients have to take expensive medication daily just to survive. The drugs can produce a range of side effects including nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anemia, insomnia and neuropathy. The CDC estimates that the lifetime cost of pharmaceuticals needed to keep patients alive now exceeds $380,000. Which means that new HIV infections in the U.S. raise healthcare costs for nearly everybody.
When she was alive, Elizabeth Taylor was closely focused on HIV/AIDS. She began working on this cause in the mid-1980s and established the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991. By 2013, ETAF had granted $17 million to more than 675 organizations in 44 countries and 42 states in the U.S. The foundation reportedly got a major infusion of wealth from Taylor's estate after her death.
Recently, ETAF announced that it is contributing $100,000 to be the presenting sponsor for AIDSWatch 2016.
AIDSWatch 2016 will draw hundreds of HIV advocates to Washington, D.C. from across the nation in the largest constituent-based HIV advocacy event in the U.S. It is organized by the Treatment Access Expansion Project (TAEP), AIDS United and the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus. The event will take place February 29 to March 1, 2016.
Thanks to new treatment protocols, improved access to care through health reform, and new preventive technology that includes pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) via a single Truvada pill each day following suspected exposure, the end of AIDS is finally in sight. However, success depends on passing legislation to upgrade the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, and removing the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. A key part of the effort is supporting comprehensive, unblushing sexual health education that frankly addresses the mechanism of HIV transmission and how to circumvent it. Action in these areas is essential.
“The work that AIDSWatch does to elevate the voices of people living with and affected by HIV is crucial, and very much aligned with Elizabeth Taylor’s passionate approach. She used her enormous platform to advocate for those whose voices were being ignored, just as AIDSWatch is doing today,” said Joel Goldman, managing director of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. “ETAF is thrilled to be the presenting sponsor for the second time and to see the impact of this exciting event continue to grow.”