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For World AIDS Day, I visited Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington (PPMW) and joined our partners and members of Congress for a press conference that highlighted the need for access to HIV testing and treatment for all people. We encouraged everyone to "Know Your Status," which was this year's World AIDS Day theme. One in seven people living with HIV don't know that they have it. Testing saves lives, and it is one of the most important components of solving this public health crisis.

In 2017, Planned Parenthood  health centers administered more than 740,000 HIV tests — a five percent increase from the previous year. In total, Planned Parenthood health centers have administered nearly 6.5 million HIV/AIDS tests in the past decade, helping millions of people across the country learn about their HIV/AIDS status. In fact, we are one of the nation’s largest providers of HIV/AIDS testing. In observance of the 30th annual World AIDS Day I stood proudly with members of Congress and our partners at a press conference to highlight the importance of access to testing and treatment. And I joined a PPMW health center to participate in a free testing day.

On Capitol Hill, I joined elected officials and partners dedicated to preventing and treating HIV/AIDS and highlighted some of the incredible work being done by Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country to meet the HIV/AIDS testing and treatment needs of their communities. Every single one of Planned Parenthood’s over 600 health centers offer HIV testing. We are proud to offer PrEP, a pill taken daily that helps reduce the threat of transmission among people at high risk of HIV, in more than 400 health centers in 44 states. As I would witness myself later in the day, affiliates like PPMW are providing outreach and education to patients and members of the community in their respective regions.

The Capitol Hill press conference was hosted by Rep. Barbara Lee. We were joined by Reps. Eliot Engel; Elijah Cummings; Jan Schakowsky;  Bonnie Watson Coleman; and Jerrold Nadler, as well as PPMW CEO Dr. Laura Meyers and Minority AIDS Council Policy Analyst Sable Nelson. We stood alongside   a plethora of white coats, with physicians and medical students from the American Medical Student Association; Doctors for America; and the National Alliance of Physicians. Many participants  spoke to the unjust reality that incidence of HIV/AIDS is significantly higher in communities of color and among people with low incomes.

“I continue to be committed, as my colleagues are,” said Rep. Cummings. “We’re going to continue working with Planned Parenthood and working with other groups. We’re determined to continue to be on the front lines every day fighting HIV and AIDS. We will continue to help spread awareness and advocate for funding for treatment and prevention programs.”

“African Americans and Latinos make up a disproportionate and, frankly alarming, amount of new HIV diagnoses. We need to understand whether information about screening and proven steps like PrEP medication are making it to these groups,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “World AIDS Day commemorates the lives lost to HIV and AIDS, and it’s a moment for us to find ways to make sure not one more life is lost.”

Rep. Lee said World AIDS Day, “is a reminder of the progress we have made, but how far we must go.” She thanked attendees and participants adding: “Today we honor those, remember those who have passed away as a result of AIDS. Let’s uphold their legacy by continuing this fight and lifting up those who are working so hard here in our own country and around the world to see an AIDS-free generation.”

All  of the speakers and partners are committed to working with Planned Parenthood and other groups to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and increase access to HIV/AIDS testing and treatment. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to break down barriers to care, advocate for our patients, and provide education on prevention, testing, and treatment.

As a leader in HIV/AIDS testing, education, and prevention in the D.C. metropolitan area, PPMW hosted and participated in several World AIDS Days events. During the free testing day, I switched from physician to patient, and got tested for HIV/AIDS. CEO Laura Meyers, PHD, joined us (you can watch the Facebook Live here). Dr. Meyers and her team have been at the forefront of fighting for improved access to HIV/AIDS treatment. PPMW recently rolled out PrEP and PEP online appointment scheduling, making accessing treatment easier than ever. The affiliate has also spearheaded “Spill the Tea,” an educational initiative encouraging outreach efforts about how PrEP and PEP work, where to access them, and why they’re so important. To promote the PrEP program, the staff of PPMW health centers wore purple, graphic printed “Ask Me About PrEP” tee shirts. It was a sight to behold and a great show of solidarity!

“So many affiliates are doing similar work,” says Dr. Meyers. “I want to say to my colleagues – thank you for all you are doing, in your communities, addressing a critical public health need, particularly for women of color, who are at greater risk of HIV transmission.”

Planned Parenthood’s impact on HIV/AIDS is not only domestic — it is felt across the globe. Planned Parenthood Global trains peer educators in Africa and Latin America to share medically accurate information on HIV and sexual and reproductive health, and  distributes condoms to help empower and educate young people about prevention of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unintended pregnancies. The Planned Parenthood Global Mobile program uses mobile technology to connect young people in Ecuador and Nigeria with health information and services, giving them the power to control their bodies and their lives. Last year, Planned Parenthood Global partners provided  more than 1.3 million people with sexual and reproductive health services.

On World AIDS Day, and every day, Planned Parenthood stands in solidarity with the millions of people living with and affected by HIV worldwide. Not only that—we stand with the advocates who work diligently to ensure they have access to the care that they need. We are proud to provide testing for HIV and other STIs in all of our health centers around the country and will continue to support partners around the world who are on the frontlines of the global epidemic. #ThisIsHealthCare

Tags: World AIDS Day