[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ocus on the future, the next five years, the next ten years, and beyond—that was President Obama’s aim in his latest and last State of the Union address. It was a speech full of the promise of positive change, reiterating his policies to make Americans more secure in terms of their employment and healthcare, among other safety nets, in a new technological age. “We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more people,” he said. “And because we did—because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril—we emerged stronger and better than before.”
I was heartened to hear President Obama include HIV/AIDS in his list of winnable battles to secure a brighter future for our next generation. “Right now, we’re on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS. That’s within our grasp….”
Over the past fifteen years, our country has seen progress in the fight against AIDS in leaps and bounds. In the highest office in our land, President George W. Bush initiated PEPFAR and lifting the ban on HIV-positive visitors to our country, which President Obama put it into effect. Obama also developed our country’s first National AIDS Strategy and successfully passed the Affordable Care Act, arguably making it easier for Americans to obtain and expand their healthcare coverage.
On the grass-roots level, advocates are still out in force and fighting for funding and to change HIV criminalization laws. Workers in public health are educating physicians about PrEP and organizing communities to break down barriers to testing and treatment. Researchers are committed to creating formulations of HIV meds that require less frequent dosing and do not tax the body quite as much. All of this is working—new HIV cases are down overall. Yet there is still work to be done—rates of infection are up among gay and bisexual African-American and Latino men and the South continues to be devastated. And too few individuals living with HIV are reaching undetectable viral loads.
We need to take Obama’s speech as a guide and continue to focus on the future. Let’s call it strategic nurturing. It’s a very maternal or paternal approach—caring about right now but also realizing that our children and others’ children will grow up one day. We need to continue to care about not only the next generation but the generation after that. We in the AIDS community are family, after all.
That’s why I love that actress and AIDS advocate Niecy Nash, who graces our cover this month, describes herself as a maternal type, not only in the roles she takes but also in the nurturance of her family, her community, and beyond. “I really am a lover of people, and I want them to be well and better. I want them to be a little better after I leave than they were before I came. So, I am a natural caregiver and in that respect I find that I am in a very comfortable place with very comfortable footing when playing Denise ‘Didi’ Ortley,” she states about the nurse she played on Getting On. It’s a sentiment that spills over into her AIDS advocacy for APLA and The DIVA Foundation. Niecy’s notion of motherhood embraces the whole world!
This issue celebrates acts of nurturance, whether it is self-care as an individual living with HIV/AIDS or the care of others impacted by the disease. As a reverend, an artist, and a longterm survivor, this month’s Gallery subject, Joyce McDonald, advocates for speaking out about traumas and how we can heal from them. Maria Mejia-Laing, this month’s guest columnist and also a longterm survivor, hopes to empower women living with HIV who are suffering from traumas shaped by abuse and intimate partner violence. Another longterm survivor featured in this issue, the Reverend Stacey Latimer, uses his experiences, knowledge, and compassion to bring his message of AIDS awareness to communities near and far.
As we mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this month, let’s remember that old chestnut in a new way: It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to ensure a continuum of care.
David Waggoner is Editor in Chief and Publisher of A&U, the first national HIV/AIDS magazine in the U.S.