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November 18, 2011

Taskforce still leads the way on HIV and AIDS

Cleveland--The AIDS Taskforce is an institution in the Greater Cleveland community, founded in 1983 as a classic AIDS service organization designed to serve the needs of people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. Its mission is to provide a compassionate and collaborative response to the needs of people infected, affected and at risk of HIV and AIDS. This is accomplished through leadership in prevention, education, supportive services and advocacy.

Currently, the AIDS Taskforce provides life-giving services such as case management, transportation and nutritional services to over 1,200 clients per year and prevention education, research and advocacy to over 15,000 people both infected and affected by the virus each year. 

As we all know too well, at the onset of the epidemic, clients had very few options for treatment and ultimately few options for their very survival. Yet this year marks the 30-year anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS infection and 30 years of survival.

To date, the AIDS community has made great strides on the impact of epidemic including single-pill-a-day drug regimens, improved and prolonged quality of life for patients, new federal financial support for syringe exchange programs, and new uses of social media techniques that allow real-time communication with clients. 

However, the challenges surrounding HIV and AIDS are still omnipresent. They include issues with condom use, donor fatigue, persistent stigma and poverty, and for some, the inability to adhere long-term to prescribed drug regiments.

Oh, did I mention poverty?

This is significant because a large number of Taskforce clients survive on less than $10,000 per year.

Today, if you ask most Americans, they believe that AIDS is no longer an issue; however, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we can expect 50,000 new cases of HIV infection in this year, added to the national total of 1.1 million as of 2009. If this fact isn’t troubling enough, we currently experience a death of a person living with AIDS every 33 minutes.

Although the CDC describes the new cases figure as comparatively “stable,” it is still unacceptable to think that 50,000 more Americans with be added to the HIV rolls, especially at a time when resources for life-giving treatments have been or are in danger of being cut and many states are experiencing waiting list for the drugs required to preserve the lives of HIV positive people.

As we recognize the hard-fought gains in care, treatment and prevention over the last 30 years of epidemic, the prevailing thought must be to remain vigilant and focused on the end goal.

A cure.

Tracy Jones, MNO, is the chief executive officer of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.












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