CONTINUING THE MARCH TOWARD SOCIAL JUSTICE SUPPORTS OUR MISSION TO END HIV AND HEPATITIS C
The HIV and hepatitis C epidemics disproportionately affect the most marginalized communities of people in American society. Factors that define who we are, and especially how society sees us – the color of our skin, who and how we love, and how we express our gender can leave us vulnerable not just to those diseases and to the mental health and substance use challenges that magnify them, but also to discrimination and physical violence.
Project Inform was founded to fight for the survival of people with HIV through the discovery of treatments, to build tools that help people with HIV make empowered and informed choices about their health, and to ensure access to health care and medication for all who needed it. In 2011, our mission broadened to encompass hepatitis C, a virus affecting over thirty percent of people with HIV and millions more, and fueled by the same societal oppression and disparities as HIV.
Though the specific torch we took up in 1985 and carry to this day has focused on science, education and health care advocacy, we have always known that achieving our mission would be impossible if we did not also fight alongside our colleagues for full equality and social justice for all.
Tuesday, the President of the United States gave complete aid and comfort to neo-Nazis, white-nationalists and other individuals and groups that espouse hatred, bigotry and violence against the very people Project Inform cares about and seeks to benefit through our work. We are completely appalled, profoundly saddened, and infuriated by his blatant racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and seeming lack of any moral compass. And we are terrified about the implications of his contempt for the people we hold dear.
We have already seen that the president seeks, at any cost, to deny health insurance to 23 million people – a goal as barbaric as it is driven by a desire to erase any and all accomplishments of the nation’s first African American President, Barack Obama. In the last week, he has also made clear that he intends to respond to the nation’s opioid crisis not with sound prevention and treatment programs, but by throwing people – including some of the very people who voted for him – in jail.
I cannot see how the Congress of the United States can allow him to remain in office given his grave moral failings. Moving forward, the president’s actions are entirely the responsibility of the leadership of the House and Senate who have the power to block him, and even to remove him from office.
Project Inform, and all of our great partners in this work, will continue to push the federal government to recognize the damage that centuries of bigotry and discrimination have done to communities that bear the disproportionate burden of the HIV and hepatitis C epidemics. We will continue to demand that it respond to that terrible history with comprehensive and compassionate health, mental health, substance abuse, harm reduction, housing, anti-poverty, and anti-violence programs.
It IS possible for good to come from the horrific words and deeds of the past six days – if we bring new dedication and allies into the fight to meet this one great obligation of the American people and our government – to own and correct the grave social injustice in our past and present.
On the great social challenges of our times, Project Inform agrees with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. that “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” We are confident that, with courage, hard work and perseverance, social justice in America will one day become complete, and our mission satisfied. Thank you for being a part of that great vision.
Dana Van Gorder