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Road to AIDS 2012 Sparks Discussion and Dialogue on National HIV/AIDS Strategy

3.26.2012 - New York, NY - Last night local residents and leadership convened to discuss the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and its local implementation. The town hall held at GMHC was the eighth stop on the ROAD TO AIDS 2012, a nationwide tour engaging communities across the country in conversations about the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America. With more than 150 attendees, the discussion was insightful and lively.

The diverse panel included two leading HIV experts from NYC government, both from the NYC Department of Health, Assistant Commissioner Monica Sweeney, MD, and Blayne Cutler, MD, Director, Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. They were joined by Marcella Tillett, LMSW, Marsha A. Martin and Sam Rivera, from Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS) and Ed Shaw, Chair of the GMHC Consumer Advisory Board and New York Association for HIV Over 50.

Janet Weinberg, Chief Operating Officer of GMHC opened the event, explaining, "GMHC formed 30 years ago when six gay men came together to craft a community response to the epidemic. Today GMHC faces new challenges to help people live with HIV/AIDS which includes continuing to address stigma. As the epidemic transformed, so did we, moving from a buddy program that kept people from dying alone to a pharmacy ensuring people thrive and manage their disease. We moved from a phone hotline to an e-helpline assisting people all over the world."

Marcella Tillett, LMSW, Secretary of the NYC HIV Prevention Planning Group and UCHAPS Steering Committee member, noted, "As the 2012 International AIDS Conference draws near and we examine responses to HIV/AIDS across the globe, it is important that we take an opportunity to focus on our strategy here at home. NHAS provides a good blueprint, informed by 'community,' but it is the responsibility of 'community' to use their collective voices and power to ensure that the implementation of the strategy at the local level meets the needs of those living with HIV/AIDS and those at highest risk."

Dr. Monica Sweeney, MD, noted, "Using science and evidence-based research, we have to become more aggressive to meet the goals of the National Strategy and end the HIV epidemic-although unpopular, this will mean challenging long-held beliefs and practices."

Dr. Blayne Cutler, explained the impact of NHAS locally, "In line with the key goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, NYC has had many HIV prevention successes, including the near elimination of mother-to-child transmission, the dramatic decline in new diagnoses among injection drug users, and the decline in HIV-related mortality."

Sam Rivera, Vice President/Chief Operating Officer at Exponents, and Board President, UCHAPS, stated how critical it was to engage the HIV+ population in prevention efforts specifically citing the impact of the HIV Stops With Me campaign. "I am encouraged by the large number of New Yorkers who attended last night's Town Hall meeting. The questions and comments displayed an impressive knowledge related to the ongoing implementation of the NHAS. We must utilize all prevention tools and strategies at our disposal to make this the last generation impacted by this epidemic."

Marsha A. Martin, Director of UCHAPS, concurred, "The rich discussion and dialogue that took place among the attendees and the speakers once again shows how government and community, working side by side can address tough issues together, creating an agenda for bringing an end to this epidemic. Holding the forum at in the beautiful new dining room at GMHC, as it commemorates 30 years of being in the forefront of the epidemic, is a reminder that we can indeed do great things together when we all stand up, speak out and serve our communities together."

Like the town halls before it, the NYC Town Hall provided local residents the ability to dialogue directly with leaders from government, the medical establishment and community-based organizations about national and regional efforts to ramp up HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. Insights gleaned from these conversations will be presented at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), to be held in Washington, DC from July 22 through July 27.

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About GMHC
GMHC is a not-for-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based organization committed to national leadership in the fight against AIDS. We provide prevention and care services to men, women and families that are living with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS in New York City. We advocate for scientific, evidence-based public health solutions for hundreds of thousands worldwide. www.gmhc.org

Media Contact:
Krishna Stone | 212.367.1016

Source: GMHC


"Reproduced with permission - GMHC"

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