HIV/AIDS in Minnesota: A reality check — January 26, 2015
It’s hard to believe that we are already one month into the New Year. So much has happened at Clare Housing over the last month – including breaking ground on our newest project Clare Terrace – 36 units of permanent, affordable supportive housing for people living with HIV/AIDS in our community. As we celebrate our accomplishments of the past year, I want to take a moment and share some thoughts as to why Clare Housing continues it work today.
Over the last few months I have been asked on several occasions why AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) are necessary. It’s a valid question, and one that many nonprofits grapple with each year. We often ask ourselves, “What is the market demand for the services and/or product we offer?” and “What difference am I making in our community to advance our mission?”
Personally, I believe that Clare Housing and all AIDS service organizations need to continue their work for one simple reason: AIDS is not over.
- More than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 7 (14%) are unaware of their infection.
- Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, particularly young black/African American MSM, are most seriously affected by HIV.
- By race, blacks/African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV.
- Each year, there are approximately 50,000 new HIV infections in the United States
- In Minnesota, nearly 8,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS
- Since 2004, the rate of new infections each year has averaged 320; nearly 3200 people have tested positive for the HIV virus since 2004. 12,000 people will be living with HIV by 2024 if we continue at the current rate of infections.
- People with low-incomes are disproportionately impacted by HIV in our community; over 200 people are on Clare Housing’s waiting list and 93% of our residents earn less than $10,000 year.
AIDS Service Organizations have a unique role to play in our community to support and advocate on behalf of people living with HIV. We provide critically needed case management services, we advocate for access for health care and affordable housing, we provide specialized HIV care and support services and we work hard to end HIV stigma by educating our community. But we can’t do this work alone and it can’t be business as usual as we enter the fourth decade of this epidemic.
What we do is necessary. The action you take is too. A call to mobilize.
We have the resources to dramatically reduce new HIV infections. Proven prevention strategies for HIV-negative people at high risk for infection, as well as targeted interventions with HIV positive individuals who are out of care, provide us with the necessary tools to stop and ultimately reverse the epidemic in Minnesota. What we’re doing is working. What we need to do is more of it.
Despite this potential, the public’s sense of urgency associated with combating the epidemic is declining. Unless we take bold actions now, we face an era of increased infections, greater challenges serving people with HIV, and higher health care and housing costs.
The time is now. We as a community need to come together and identify where policy and funding gaps persist in our HIV/AIDS response and how these gaps can be addressed. Together we can develop a statewide plan to end new HIV infections by 2025. It is time for our state and local governments as well as HIV advocates and service providers to join together and do things differently. We need an unprecedented commitment to collaboration, efficiency and innovation to bring Minnesota to zero new infections by 2025.
Imagine it — bringing Minnesota to zero new infections by 2025. This is why we continue to exist. This is how together, we will end this epidemic.