This Black History Month, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., although spoken more than 50 years ago, ring just as true today. The progress that our country has made in ensuring equitable access to healthcare is under assault and the social conditions that create disparities are becoming more prominent.
The Affordable Care Act established a way for our country to achieve health equity by expanding access to healthcare to millions of Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status, pre-existing conditions, or age. With the proposed repeal of the ACA without a comparable replacement in sight, our progress towards achieving health equity is not only threatened, our country is at-risk for going backwards to a time when disparities were even greater.
This also threatens our success in ending the HIV epidemic and achieving San Francisco’s goal of getting to zero. Without a doubt, the ACA has allowed San Francisco to achieve record low HIV infection rates and record high viral suppression rates. These trends are not just a result of expanded healthcare coverage within vulnerable communities. They are also caused by public and private funds—previously used to support the expensive medical care of people living with HIV—reallocated support programs like case management, housing assistance, and mental health services. Our community needs to continue to expand these sorts of support services, not cut them.
Even with the successes brought by the ACA, we continue to see disparities in HIV infections connected to sexual orientation, gender identity, and race/ethnicity. We also see lower than average rates of viral suppression among communities of color, homeless individuals, and substance using populations.
San Francisco AIDS Foundation is committed to advancing health equity by advocating for continued, high-quality, affordable healthcare for more people, not fewer. And we will continue our efforts to address health disparities by offering programs and services that look at the whole person in the context of their environment. Please be sure to read more details about our policy and program efforts to promote health equity by reading our Policy Update and DREAAM article in this month’s issue of Status.
Finally, although the future seems fraught with challenges, I am reminded of something else Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” San Francisco AIDS Foundation is here to fight for our community just like we have for the past 35 years. I hope you will continue to stand alongside us in the fight for justice.
And remember, our community is resilient and together, we are powerful.
The best way to fight HIV is to know your status. A simple test can determine if you are infected with the virus.
Our diverse programs help thousands of people every year. From testing to prevention to care, our services assist communities where need is greatest.