These Cities Are Taking Action to Take Down HIV and AIDS

On World AIDS Day in 2014, mayors from around the world met in Paris to launch the Fast-Track Cities Initiative. By 2020, the cities that joined the initiative aim to ensure that 90% of people living with HIV know that they have the virus, are taking anti-retroviral treatment medications and in so doing, are keeping the virus suppressed. They also want to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that come with HIV diagnoses.

"Ending the AIDS epidemic is achievable if the world's major cities act immediately and decisively to fast-track their AIDS responses by 2020," Michel Sidibé, the executive director of UNAIDS, said in a press release. "A Fast-Track AIDS response in cities will also encourage new, cutting-edge service delivery programs that can pave the way for cities to address other public health challenges, including tuberculosis, sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health, gender-based violence and noncommunicable diseases."

Read more: The Scariest Millennial HIV Number Isn't How Many People Have It

Since then, eight U.S. cities have climbed on-board with the Fast-Track Initiative: Oakland, California; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Providence, Rhode Island; Miami; Denver and Atlanta. Here's what a few of those cities are doing to get their HIV and AIDS rates down and awareness up.

The city of Paris and UNAIDS sign an initiative agreement on World Aids Day 2014.
Source: 
Kenzo Tribouillard/Getty Images

San Francisco is, according to the Advocate, "committed to being the first city to reach zero — zero new HIV transmissions and zero AIDS patients." The Getting to Zero SF initiative aims to achieve this goal by 2020, maintaining the city's history of leading the way in caring for and treating HIV and AIDS. The city's RAPID program is helping to get the newly diagnosed into treatment within five days.

Oakland, California, has established assistance programs through its Community Housing Service to secure shelter for homeless people living with HIV and AIDS. The California HIV/AIDS Research Program is also located in Oakland, and it is driving research in new medical, policy and care strategies to reduce HIV infection.

Washington, D.C., had, at the end of 2006, the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS in the country. In June 2015, NBC reported that the city's rate of infection was down for the sixth year running. This because of HIV and AIDS programs like Positive Pathways, a collaborative initiative between the Washington AIDS Partnership and the Institute for Public Health Innovation. Positive Pathways is a peer-driven program in high-need communities, providing access to treatment and support for HIV-positive African-American people, focusing "on women and their partners."

Baltimore is home to the Joint AIDS Community Quest for Unique and Effective Treatment Strategies Initiative. The Institute of Human Virology launched the JACQUES Initiative in 2003. The mission: to improve access to treatment, care and support, to do away with the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS and to show patients that life goes on after a diagnosis — about 20% of the JACQUES staff is HIV-positive.

Denver pledged to end AIDS by 2030, through initiatives like the Denver Colorado AIDS Project, which aims to "empower" HIV-positive people by providing counseling, housing, transportation and a food bank. DCAP offers educational services, free testing and health care for the Denver area's in-need populations. 

Miami, and Southern Florida more broadly, have a number of projects designed to end the spread of HIV and AIDS. The South Florida AIDS Network is one. Founded in 1986 at Jackson Memorial Hospital, SFAN "was the first organization in Miami-Dade County to provide client advocacy/case management" and remains the county's largest provider of HIV and AIDS related services including (but not limited to) education; testing; counseling; transportation; food; Medicaid waivers; housing and hospital assistance; referrals to doctors and specialists; prevention programs and substance abuse treatment. 

A memorial quilt on display in Atlanta on World AIDS Day 2014.
Source: 
David Goldman/AP

Atlanta's AID Atlanta encompasses a range of programs, including educational initiatives such as Evolution, a community center that provides a "safe space" for transgender and gay black men ages 18 to 28. They also offer AIDS 101 seminars; RightTRACK workshops to assist HIV-positive individuals in mapping and managing their financial, medical, legal and mental health issues; and risk counseling and prevention services for both adults and teens. The city's Linkage to Care Peer Guiding Program aims to improve access to care for HIV-positive people and at-risk populations that currently aren't getting the medical attention they need, raising awareness with an eye toward taking out HIV and AIDS completely by 2030.

Providence, Rhode Island, a state where HIV transmission rates were up in 2014, is working to combat HIV and AIDS through increased awareness and better access to health care, with more aggressive education about prevention and treatment methods. The AIDS Project Rhode Island provides testing services and support to people living with HIV whose income is insufficient to secure adequate care. The project also provides educational and training programs in at-risk areas. Programs such as AIDS Care Ocean State also advocate for Rhode Island's HIV-positive and their families, assisting with housing, medical care and case management.

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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