Marginalized Populations Should Be Focus of HIV Prevention Efforts, Opinion Piece Says
Although the U.S. has "relatively abundant resources available to those living with HIV," socioeconomic gaps continue to lead to higher rates of the virus among marginalized groups in the country, Christine Jolly, president of AIDS Care Service, writes in a Winston-Salem Journal opinion piece. Jolly for the past eight years has worked for an HIV/AIDS service organization and writes that she has seen her clients "struggling daily to live simultaneously with HIV and poverty."
Following a trip earlier this month to the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Jolly writes that the devastating toll of HIV worldwide has forced "even the most extremely conservative countries" to take "bold steps to" curb the spread of the disease. For example, Jolly writes that Iran has embraced needle-exchange programs and condom distribution to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. Nevertheless, Jolly writes that HIV-positive people across the globe still are waging battles against discriminatory government policies, including the criminalization of homosexuality.
According to Jolly, a "common thread" throughout the conference was the acknowledgement that HIV prevalence rates are higher among marginalized populations in all countries, whether it be homosexuals, commercial sex workers, ethnic or religious minorities, and women. "To understand why marginalized populations are at higher risk of infection, you have to recognize that these groups often do not have equal access to housing, education, health care, clean drinking water or nutrition," Jolly writes, adding, "Marginalized groups also face discrimination and have less control of funding streams for health and social welfare purposes."
Although many citizens in the U.S. "enjoy rights and a quality of life much higher than do people in other nations," the fact that the country's "legal system acknowledges constitutional and civil rights, but not human rights," means there is a "void when it comes to advocating for the right to quality health care for everyone," Jolly writes, adding, "Without equal access to quality health care, the epidemic will only continue to increase in much of the world."
Although "some societies are busy playing the blame game to avoid taking on their fair share of the systematic responsibility for infections, the medical community, AIDS-service organizations and human-service agencies around the world are in the trenches trying to save lives," according to Jolly. "We will never have enough resources to defeat this epidemic if we don't have the support of our communities. Probably the single largest barrier to gaining that support is the belief that 'AIDS is not my problem,'" Jolly adds (Jolly, Winston-Salem Journal, 8/26).
Kaisernetwork.org was the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.