Black AIDS Institute President and CEO Phill Wilson Declares This a Deciding Moment for Ending the AIDS Epidemic in America

Jul 23, 2012, 09:00 ET from Black AIDS Institute

Wilson Opening Plenary Speech at AIDS 2012 Outlines 5-Steps to an AIDS-Free Generation

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The day will come when the AIDS epidemic will be over, but only if we act together to change health disparities in our nation and get people who are living with HIV into better care, Phill Wilson, CEO and President of the Black AIDS Institute, told attendees of the opening plenary at the 2012 International AIDS Conference on Monday which has attracted over 20,000 scientists, researchers, advocates, healthcare workers, policy-makers and government officials and media from around the world to Washington D.C.


In his speech, titled "Deciding Moment: Ending the AIDS Epidemic in America Together," Wilson laid out five steps to ending the epidemic and emphasized that the diversity of people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. requires the conscious collaboration of elected officials and scientists, medical professionals and community leaders to finally end AIDS in America.

"Thirty-one years after the disease was discovered, right here in this country, we finally have the right combination of tools and knowledge to stop the epidemic," said Wilson. "Our tools are far from perfect, but they are good enough to get the job done – if, and this is a big if, we use them efficiently, effectively, expeditiously, and compassionately. "

First, Wilson called for fully implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will deliver health coverage to more than 30 million people who are currently uninsured.

Second, he said everyone living with HIV must come out. Living openly and proudly with HIV not only minimizes HIV stigma, but it also helps build demand for essential services.

Third, he underscored the need to put as much emphasis on building demand for treatment as we do on ensuring access. He named programs, such as Medicaid and the Ryan White CARE Act, that have built a robust system for caring for people living with HIV. Yet only about one in four are now receiving the care they need.

Fourth, he emphasized the need to integrate both biomedical and the behavioral therapies in our prevention and treatment efforts.

Fifth, he called on AIDS organizations to re-tool themselves for a rapidly evolving AIDS landscape, saying many community-based organizations have focused their expertise on behavioral interventions, but few have meaningful scientific expertise, and fewer still actually deliver health care services.

Calling the epidemic in America a "Tale of Two Cities," Wilson described healthcare in the U.S as a system that can work very well for some, but for many others, the system is terribly broken.

Wilson said we are doing a bad job moving people from testing to care, losing over half of people with HIV between diagnosis and getting onto antiretrovirals. 

"Bottom line: In the richest nation on the planet, barely a quarter of people with HIV are in fully-effective treatment. More than 70% are either not in treatment at all or on suboptimal treatment," he said. "That's bad for them and it's bad for everyone else because when they are not on treatment, they are much, much more likely to spread the virus."

Wilson concluded that much work remains in the effort to end the epidemic of HIV / AIDS, but added that the "day will come" when the disease has been eliminated.

Wilson spoke at the opening plenary session with Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State; Anthony S. Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); and Dr. Sheila Tlou, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for East and Southern Africa.

About the Black AIDS Institute
Founded in 1999, The Black AIDS Institute (The Institute), a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, is the only national HIV/AIDS Think Tank in the United States focused exclusively on Black people. The Institute's mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing traditional Black leaders, institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV/AIDS. The Institute offers training and capacity building, disseminates information, interprets and recommends private and public sector HIV policies, and provides advocacy and mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.

SOURCE Black AIDS Institute