World AIDS Day 2016

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Mazzoni Center was the first AIDS service organization in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the fourth in the United States.  Our agency was founded as a small, grassroots, all-volunteer clinic in 1979, a few short years before the first cases of HIV/AIDS began to appear in Philadelphia and around the country.  Our history means that we've had a broader perspective on AIDS not simply as a medical condition, but as something that may also impact a person’s social, emotional, and economic well-being.  

 

Our continuum of care services has evolved to support individuals in meeting these various needs, including food, housing, mental health, case management, along with quality medical care.

 

AIDS began as a medical mystery and quickly morphed into a public health crisis. Specifically it was a crisis for members of the gay community, who lacked broad support or political power, were often closeted and/or disconnected from family, and found themselves suddenly faced with the terror of seeing friends, partners, loved ones dying in the prime of their lives.

 

Even now, it is shocking to consider the magnitude of loss that HIV/AIDS dealt to the LGBTQ community.  The urgency of dealing with the AIDS crisis, identifying needs and scrambling to provide adequate support, shaped everything about our organization in those early years. It galvanized the LGBTQ community in unprecedented ways, and brought to life many critically important organizations providing support and assistance to people impacted by HIV/AIDS, many of which remain our partners and collaborators today.   

Protease inhibitors in the mid-1990s brought dramatic advances in treatment of HIV/AIDS, making it possible for an HIV-positive person to enjoy a long and healthy life. And now, the advent of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) has given providers and patients a revolutionary tool for prevention, making it entirely possible that we will see the end of AIDS in the near future.

 

That said, the health benefits realized through advances in care and prevention have not translated equally across our communities.  Poverty, racism, stigma, inadequate information, and unequal access to care have meant that some segments of the LGBTQ population continue to be infected at disproportionate rates, including people of color, young men who have sex with men, and transgender women. The same institutional barriers that contribute to disproportionate rates of infection also lead to disparate outcomes for those living with HIV, here in Philadelphia and around the U.S.

 

Mazzoni Center is proud of the work we’ve done to engage the LGBTQ community overall, but we know that we have more work to do to address disparities in access and outcomes, to build relationships with people in the most impacted communities, and in partnership with fellow service organizations, public health specialists and community partners, to finally realize a world without HIV/AIDS.

 

Happening today/this week

In observance of World AIDS Day on Thursday, December 1, 2016, Mazzoni Center is teaming up with the Temple University School of Pharmacy and Temple’s QPOC (Queer People of Color) organization to bring our Mobile Testing Unit to Temple’s main campus, where we will offer free, rapid HIV testing and counseling from 2:00-6:00 p.m.  

Then on Friday, December 2, Vince Du of our Prevention team will be at the Free Library of Philadelphia (Parkway Central Branch) sharing information and resources on HIV prevention and care services.

We’ll also be testing at the Washington West Project (1201 Locust Street) from 9:00-8:30 p.m. this Thursday and Friday.  

 

For more World AIDS Day events happening in the community this week, visit the Philadelphia Gay News.

 

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