The idea of “getting to zero,” may mean many things to many people. For some, it represents the hope that one day there will be an end to discrimination and prejudice based on a person’s HIV status. For others, like the future healthcare professionals represented from the University of Maryland-Baltimore graduate campus, getting to zero means no new infections and an emphasis on education, not just for the HIV+ population, but for anyone who is in any way affected by the disease. And more than anything, getting to zero stands for no deaths as a result of HIV infection. This means the universal proliferation of antiretroviral drugs along with comprehensive medical care as a right and not a privilege.
These are all goals that would have been labeled as impossible only a decade ago and it would be naive of me to imply that the getting to zero movement is anything less than remarkably ambitious. However, if you would have told someone 20 years ago that after being diagnosed HIV+ Magic Johnson would not only be alive in 2012, but doing commentary for ESPN and co-owning the Los Angeles Dodgers, that person would have called you insane. And after you then proceeded to tell this person the drugs he was taking are available and affordable to the majority of HIV+ individuals in the United States, he or she would be so incredulous that they would probably end the conversation right there.
But, it’s the truth. Another truth that goes with it is that there no valid reason why anyone has to die from this disease in this country anymore. If that truth is to become reality, there needs to be broad, interdisciplinary work regarding HIV that covers every aspect of a client’s need. You may be reading this and thinking that your profession has no key role to play in getting to zero. It’s understandable because when you think of HIV care, the first thing to pop in your mind is probably is a medical setting with a patient being cared for by doctors and nurses or a social worker connecting them to resources and support groups. Yet, our responsibilities extend to pharmacists, whose work with antiretroviral medications are the lynchpin of any successful HIV treatment. Dental students already get a number of clients from The JACQUES Initiative referred to them and can support a population who often has terrible dental problems, but perhaps not the resources to take care of them. Lastly, law is the front line of the national and international struggle for justice and equality for the HIV+ community. Just last week, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling saying that an HIV+ man could have his personal pilot’s license taken away because he didn’t mark himself as HIV+ on the application and the licensing body later learned of his status from Social Security. If we are ever going to eliminate discrimination in the HIV community, the help and expertise of lawyers is essential.
We are, all of us, together in this race to zero. Even if you don’t plan on working with HIV+ individuals for your career, you will more than likely encounter folks who are positive in whatever practice you enter. And I guarantee you that if you’re at any organization that’s worth anything, you will be working with professionals and volunteers from many different fields and that interdisciplinary work will be essential to success in most careers. At The Leadership in HIV Summit on April 16th, you will have a unique opportunity to work with your fellow students from across the graduate school spectrum and to hopefully come away with a deeper understanding of the needs of the HIV+ community and a framework of how to get to zero
You can register for the Summit at: http://www.jacques.umaryland.edu/ptf.html
Registration is free to all students. Did I mention there was free food? Lunch and Dinner… not that you could ever be bribed with sandwiches, but… I’m just saying.
Categories: HIV News