We are a year and a half into the global coronavirus pandemic that has killed millions worldwide. In the 1980s, America faced a new and unknown epidemic that began with illness, which sparked fear and culminated in death. To date, about 37.9 million people are living with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and nearly 770,000 have lost their lives to causes related to the condition. Sadly, Washington D.C. held the highest rate of HIV and AIDS in a U.S. city for decades.
While the virus impacts men, women, and children of all ethnicities, HIV and AIDS was, and still is, a condition that carries a stigma commonly thought to be associated with homosexual men. This began in 1983 when the CDC identified at-risk groups. Without a basic knowledge of the new condition, the doors were wide open for speculation that led to stigmatization.
Thankfully, through aggressive programs introduced by Mayor Bowser and the DC Department of Health, new HIV cases have dropped by about 79 percent.
In December 2020, Mayor Murial Bowser released the District’s updated plan and community platform — Status Neutral — to end the HIV epidemic with DC Ends HIV (http://DCEndsHIV.org/). Status Neutral describes a world where HIV and AIDS are no longer transmissible and its damaging stigma has been removed. DC Ends HIV is committed to ending the HIV epidemic and supporting the best, most equitable health outcomes for all communities in DC.
Octane worked with the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA) of the D.C. Government on the Status Neutral campaign, and produced the official video, which explains the full history and impact of HIV and AIDS, development of stigmatization, and our journey to combatting those and developing a Status Neutral world. Watch the full video here.
“In DC, our status-neutral approach is to make HIV prevention and care available when and where people need it,” said Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, Director of DC Health.
In anticipation of Status Neutral’s launch day event, long-time AIDS executive and Status Neutral Project Lead, Michael Kharfan said, “[I am] excited for this conversation and advancing #StatusNeutral where people are engaged & supported regardless of their HIV status. Get into HIV care or prevention. DC is putting this pro equity and stigma-busting approach into practice”.
HIV is becoming more manageable and we’re getting closer to a status-neutral world. Octane is so proud of the impactful, important work we do with HAHSTA and now its Status Neutral campaign. Octane fully believes that we must all do our part to end the stigma. No group of people is more likely to get the virus than others. Behaviors carry the risk factors, not people.
To understand HIV’s entire journey and how it impacts communities, please watch the full video here.