Historic Numbers of Virginia HIV/AIDS Advocates Tell General Assembly to End ADAP Wait List Now!

By Rob Banaszak on February 3, 2012 in Policy/Advocacy

caressa cameronby Caressa Cameron, Regional Organizer, Mid-Atlantic Region

As the Mid-Atlantic regional organizer for AIDS United, I help to coordinate HIV/AIDS advocacy and organizing efforts throughout the region.  This week I had the pleasure of collaborating with Sue Roland of Virginia Organizations Responding to AIDS (VORA) to prepare advocates to tell their lawmakers to support Virginia’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

Record numbers of HIV/AIDS advocates came to Richmond this week urging lawmakers to end the state’s waiting list and allocate $1 million to ADAP.  Thanks to the leadership of VORA, more than 60 advocates hit the halls of the General Assembly telling lawmakers to make their lives a priority by funding ADAP. By the end of the day, the diverse group of advocates—people living with HIV/AIDS, their families, friends, and healthcare providers– spoke with representatives from 130 of the 140 offices in the House and Senate.

For some advocates, the event marked the very first time they were able to share their personal stories in a political setting.  As the advocates told lawmakers stories of how ADAP saved their lives, it was clear they were making an impact. The advocates helped members of the General Assembly understand how treatment is prevention, how investing in ADAP can save Virginia money by avoiding costly hospitalizations, and how ADAP keeps people living with HIV healthy so they can provide for themselves and their families.

However, the day was not without its painful reminders that HIV stigma persists. After disclosing their statuses and telling their stories, a few advocates faced legislative aides unwilling to shake their hands. Though disappointed by such behavior, the advocates pressed on, determined to get their message out. They reported never feeling more empowered. They were excited to return home with their new knowledge and experience to educate and mobilize their communities around ADAP.

It is not too late for the voices of Virginians to be heard! Constituents have until Valentine’s Day to tell Virginia lawmakers to allocate the $1 million needed to fully fund Virginia’s ADAP and ensure that no person living with HIV has to be put on a waiting list before receiving life-saving medications. If you are a Virginia resident and are interested in joining this advocacy effort, contact your legislator today! For more knowledge on Virginia’s ADAP, how you can get involved, or to find contact information for your legislators, please visit www.voraonline.org. Sue Rowland can be reach at info@voraonline.org.

To get involved with HIV/AIDS advocacy in the Mid-Atlantic Region (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey) contact me at 202.404.4848 x.212/202.557.5904 or ccameron@aidsunited.org

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