MPHA enjoys a diverse membership of organizational partners who share our vision for an equitable and healthy Commonwealth.
This month we are happy to highlight the work of our partner organization AIDS Action Committee. Read our interview with Executive Director Carl Sciortino to learn more about AIDS Action’s important work through the Getting to Zero Coalition and to learn how you can become involved.
MPHA: What is the Getting to Zero Coalition?
Sciortino: The Massachusetts Getting to Zero Coalition is a group of community and health advocates, consumers, and organizations dedicated to ending HIV. The three broad goals are to get to zero new HIV infections, zero HIV-related deaths, and zero HIV-related stigma. Similar efforts are springing up around the country, and are a way of convening the talent, passion, and advocacy within our communities to make sure we’re doing everything we can to bring this epidemic to a close.
MPHA: AIDS Action Committee recently released a report, “Massachusetts Comprehensive Plan to Eliminate HIV Discrimination, AIDS Related Deaths, and New HIV Infections.” Can you tell us a little about the report and its top findings?
Sciortino: I often hear reactions to our work around HIV/AIDS as if someone had already declared mission accomplished. While things are in a far better place than the worst days of the epidemic, HIV is an infectious disease that is still spreading, and continues to most impact people who are otherwise already marginalized. Our blueprint, organized in seven general categories, provides detailed goals and opportunities for further innovation in our fight against HIV. For example, one new tool is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is a daily medication that is highly effective at preventing someone from acquiring HIV. It is a gamechanger to have a biomedical prevention tool, and our blueprint talks about ways to better get the word out and get people at high risk to seek and adhere to PrEP. There are many more examples like that in the blueprint, which can be viewed at www.gettingtozeroma.org.
MPHA: The Comprehensive Plan identifies disparities by race and other aspects of identity. Can you tell us a little about these disparities and how they are being addressed?
Sciortino: While HIV is a virus that doesn’t care who a person is, what their race, gender identity, or sexual orientation is, it is still a fact that HIV disproportionately impacts people of color, gay men, and transgender women. At AIDS Action we talk about the need to not just address the health needs of our clients, but to address the social factors that allow HIV to thrive in marginalized communities, which means we have to be explicit in our work in addressing racism, homophobia, transphobia, poverty, xenophobia, and a fear of talking openly about sexual health. Our Getting to Zero blueprint lays out specific goals and strategies for addressing all of these social determinants of health, which is essential if we are to make continued progress.
MPHA: How can our members support AIDS Action Committee’s work?
Sciortino: One of the best ways to get involved is the AIDS Walk & 5k Run, which is always held the first Sunday in June. We’d welcome anyone to contact us who might be interested in learning more about the AIDS Walk, forming a team of friends or colleagues, and helping us to raise both money and awareness.
MPHA’s strength as an organization depends upon the support and participation of a vibrant and committed membership. Click here to learn how you can become an organizational member of MPHA.