HIV and AIDS advocacy organizations and individuals play a critical role in helping those in underserved communities. They help expand access to the medical and social supports people with HIV need.
HIV and AIDS are treatable medical conditions, but people living with these diagnoses can face many barriers. Unmet needs for housing and employment can compound the effects of stigma and make it harder to access medical care and treatment.
Advocacy organizations and individuals are working on the ground to remove these barriers, in particular among underserved communities such as those of Black people and other People of Color, LGBTQIA+ folks, low-income groups, and women.
Their work has resulted in people getting more access to the medical and social supports they need.
Activism and advocacy have a long history, going back to the early days of the HIV epidemic in the United States.
In the early 1980s, people living with HIV and AIDS were often
Today, scientific advancements have made HIV and AIDS manageable conditions, but people with the diagnosis still face social stigma and barriers to care.
Individual advocates and organizations play a critical role in raising awareness about HIV and AIDS and increasing treatment access to members in underserved communities.
Here’s a sampling of some people and groups doing this essential work.
Many HIV and AIDS advocacy organizations offer a mix of informational and educational campaigns while running programs to deliver supports to people living with the diagnosis. The focus is often on an underserved community whose members face systemic barriers to health equity.
Black AIDS Institute
The mission of the Black AIDS Institute is to stop AIDS in Black communities, specifically by mobilizing Black people and institutions.
It focuses on Black empowerment, equity, self-determination, and integrity while striving for measurable effect on the lives of Black people. The Institute runs a number of educational and advocacy programs, as well as a Los Angeles-based health clinic for Black, Latinx, and other people from underserved communities.
The Well Project
Founded in 2002, The Well Project focuses on the needs of women living with and vulnerable to HIV. The Project increases access to women-focused, culturally responsive HIV information.
It also encourages women in leadership and HIV advocacy positions and advances the cause of women-focused HIV-research.
Increasing access to treatment
San Francisco AIDS Foundation
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation strives for health justice for anyone living with or at risk of contracting HIV. It has a wide spectrum of services, including integrated supports for sexual health and substance use.
While serving those with HIV, LGBTQ+ folks, and those who inject drugs, the organization also prioritizes people of color, people experiencing homelessness, and people with mental health care needs, among others.
Housing Works serves low-income people and people experiencing homelessness affected by HIV and AIDS. The organization states that “stable housing is healthcare” and offers supportive services in the areas of housing, healthcare, nutritional counseling, and meals.
Mental health and substance use treatment are also part of its mandate. The organization works throughout New York City and has advocacy offices in Washington, D.C., and Haiti.
Health equity has been the focus of NMAC, formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council, for people and Communities of Color, specifically those living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Its treatment division has programs to increase health literacy among those with HIV and AIDS so they can participate fully in treatment.
NMAC also focuses on those over the age of 50 living with HIV and AIDS, with an additional focus on co-occuring mental health concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use.
The Damien Center provides healthcare services to people with HIV and AIDS across Indiana. The organization offers financial assistance programs for those who are uninsured or underinsured.
It also has housing assistance programs, a food pantry, and youth services to support those living with HIV and AIDS.
Individuals also perform essential work on behalf of people living with HIV and AIDS. Their roles in service organizations, in the arts, or in politics help advance the cause of members of underserved communities.
Cecilia Chung is a long-time advocate for HIV and AIDS awareness and LGBTQ+ equality. She currently serves on the San Francisco Health Commission and is a past member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS.
Chung is an immigrant from Hong Kong and has worked with organizations promoting Asian Pacific Islander wellness. Chung broke new ground when she chaired the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, as she was the first person living openly with HIV to hold the position.
Khafre Kujichagulia Abif
Khafre Kujichagulia Abif is a writer, artist, and advocate. Abif was a co-founder of Bi+ Georgia, an organization that strives to build a safe community for bi+ people in the state.
Increasing access to treatment
Kathie Hiers holds the position of CEO of AIDS Alabama. The nonprofit has a variety of initiatives to support low-income people living with HIV and AIDS, including housing and supportive services. AIDS Alabama also works on HIV and AIDS testing and outreach.
Hiers’ work with AIDS Alabama began in 2001, before which she was executive director of Mobile AIDS Support Services in Mobile, Alabama.
Hiers continues to advocate for people living with HIV and AIDS in the southern U.S. states, and in 2010, was the only Southerner to sit on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS. She was co-chair of the council’s Disparities Committee.
There are ways for anyone interested in HIV and AIDS advocacy and activism to make a difference. Here are some options:
- Donate: AIDS advocacy organizations are typically nonprofits. You can look for ways to give on their websites. In addition to direct monetary donations, some might run thrift stores where you can donate goods or have charitable events you can attend.
- Volunteer: Activism typically requires people power. Many organizations have opportunities to volunteer, either on a short-term or continuing basis. This might include giving your time to fundraising events, putting in some hours at an office, or filling a professional volunteer role such as offering pro bono legal or medical services.
- Spread the word: You can raise an organization’s profile by sharing news of its work or events through social media. If you have corporate connections, you can also recommend a sponsorship or publicity partnership.
Another way to get involved is to just ask the organization. They might be able to tell you where they have the most need and how what you have to offer might be a good fit.
Advocacy and activism are critical to improving the lives of people in underserved communities living with HIV and AIDS. You can get involved by giving your time, donating, or spreading the word about their important work.