By Domingo Dominguez, HIV Prevention Team Lead
The world has made significant progress since the 1980s, but HIV remains a major global public health issue. Like many other major health issues, it faces additional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care services are all being disrupted particularly in countries with fragile health systems. The breakdown in essential HIV services due to COVID-19 is threatening lives. Any delays in providing these services will leave many vulnerable populations at greater risk of HIV transmission and AIDS-related deaths. Nevertheless, health workers and community representatives all over the world are doing their absolute best to keep services going, adopting innovative and adaptive ways to overcome disruptions in services caused by COVID-19. With two viruses to combat in mind, our HIV advocates focus on providing sexual health resources to vulnerable groups who are already susceptible to systemic and institutional barriers to equitable health care.
In honor of HIV Awareness Month, this week we are providing some clarity on the #FLICKOFFHIV campaign. Flick Off HIV is a new campaign supported by the Kenneth Young Center. It was created by and for those who are at the highest risk for 1) HIV transmission and 2) lack of overall health care due to systemic and institutional barriers. With respectability politics aside, the campaign is blatant about the power of providing imagery and language that is comprehensive and relatable to the communities it is serving.
Today, sex workers, people who inject drugs, Black and Latinx men who have sex with men / queer / & trans* folx are still at the highest risk for HIV transmission in the United States just as it was in the early 80s, a time when AIDS took the lives of thousands of our queer and trans ancestors (may they rest in peace). Time and time again, state-sanctioned and funded campaigns fail to recognize the hxstorical impact of grassroots campaigns such as ACT UP FIGHT AIDS and how radical alternatives to communication and action lead to actual impact and change. Flick Off HIV is a campaign that strives to balance radical ideology and influences from campaigns like ACT UP and from current and impactful campaigns like Getting to Zero and U = U.
Our goal is to provide free comprehensive sex education with a focus on queer identities, community care, social justice, and pleasure advocacy. We also provide free HIV testing and counseling, peer support, sexual health resources, and linkage to holistic care. There is a sense of urgency to serve Black and Latinx communities such as men who have sex with men (MSM), queer folx, trans folx, nonbinary folx, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and Black women, due to the disproportionate impact and inequities in HIV transmission specifically seen among these communities. We give special consideration to those communities within any of the risk groups that we serve.
Our mission is to safeguard and empower lives affected by HIV, in our health services and everyday work by giving the finger to:
New HIV transmissions
Inaccessibility to treatment, prevention, and education
Stigma and shame
AIDs related deaths
We recognize that:
Lack of social justice is a public health issue
Systemic racism is a public health issue
Trauma is a public health issue
Oppression is a public health issue
Lack of safety is a public health issue
Institutional bias is a public health issue
Inequity/inequality is a public health issue
Inaccessibility is a public health issue
All these issues are intersectional with the work we do as HIV advocates.
Given these unprecedented times:
The #FLICKOFFHIV campaign raises support for all who are struggling against injustice and inequity. Our very mission - to defend and empower lives affected by HIV, in our health services and everyday work - is integral to advocating for equity, justice, and access to care for all. In this time of pain, struggle, and uncertainty, we are reminded that the goal towards improved health and well-being for those at the highest risk for HIV is intertwined with our work towards justice and liberation.
We see the effects of inequity, social barriers, and division in the lives of the people we serve every day, especially among those who are marginalized and discriminated against because of the color of their skin. We will continue to defend our clients and community by flicking off what is most harmful to us and by delivering the care and compassion everyone deserves, knowing that there is much more work to be done and a dire need for healing.
Read more from our team: