In these partisan times, it can be difficult to find topics on which we all agree. Ongoing bipartisan support is needed to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States and globally, and we need this support to extend to all communities. Health care should not be political, and that includes the fight against HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS continues to be an urgent human rights and public health crisis, affecting millions in the United States and around the world. This, despite the fact that when it comes to ending the epidemic, we know what works: access to a full range of sexual and reproductive health care and rights; combating stigma, discrimination and policy barriers that restrict the ability of all people to access lifesaving information and services; and centering the needs of marginalized communities, including women and girls.
We also know that, like most health conditions, politics and social issues affect the way the HIV/AIDS epidemic works. Marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, including gay and bisexual men, black women, young people and transgender people. And social issues such as poverty, gender inequality, discrimination, lack of education and violence put individuals and communities at increased risk of acquiring HIV and compound the impact of HIV/AIDS.
That’s why at Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, our doors stay open. We will never back down, and we will never stop fighting to ensure that Planned Parenthood patients have access to the care they need, including prevention, testing, counseling and treatment of HIV/AIDS, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, income, country of origin or postal code.
Our U.S. values should also dictate that, regardless of partisanship, as part of the global response to HIV/AIDS, the United States should continue to provide robust support for global health programs, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood works with more than 100 organizations across Africa and Latin America to reach more than 1 million people every year with sexual and reproductive health information and services, and engage in effective advocacy efforts that help fight HIV/AIDS. We’ve been working globally for more than 40 years because we truly believe in care, no matter what, and no matter where.
The United States has also historically been an important leader in the fight to protect and advance global sexual and reproductive health and rights. It supports global health programs in more than 60 countries to combat HIV/AIDS and support reproductive health care, including family planning, maternal health and child health. Such global health programs stretch back 50 years and are supported by the vast majority of U.S. voters. The United States must continue to provide robust support for the domestic and global health programs that aim to address these challenges, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive health care. Every dollar cut from U.S. global health programs affects the lives of some of the poorest women and children around the world. We need strong health systems, continued U.S. political leadership and sound policies to achieve an AIDS-free generation.
Every individual should have access to the care they need to control their body and their future. This is true whether they are HIV-positive or not. I encourage you to #StandWithPP and support efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. Now is the time to move forward, not backward, on an issue that has affected so many millions around the world. Let’s protect our progress and double down on our efforts to achieve an AIDS-free generation.
Stacy M. Cross is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, the largest nonprofit provider of sexual and reproductive health care and youth education programs in Oregon and Southwest Washington.