Derek E. Spencer, MS, CRNP
A letter from JACQUES Initiative Executive Director Derek E. Spencer, MS, CRNP
Since 1981 and our first knowledge of this epidemic, HIV has been surrounded with the stigma of a “those people disease.” In the 1980’s most of the publicized cases of HIV were in the gay white male community. It was called a “gay white mans disease”, the gay plague, or gay related immune deficiency (GRID). It was quickly identified as a “those people disease” and demographics of our country who were not gay, white, or male falsely believed this could not happen to them.
Many who have lived concurrently with the developing history of HIV and AIDS know that this “those people disease” stigma has impacted the full fabric of our global community. We realize more than ever “We must get the We in HIV.”
Despite efforts to engage the community in testing, treatment and prevention, we have approximately 56,000 new infections each year in the United States. Metropolitan areas across the U.S. are experiencing epidemics that are generalized and severe, including our nations capitol, who recently announced an overall prevalence rate of 3%. Advancement in the field of HIV has been significant over the last 27 years, yet we still find ourselves searching for new and different ways to stop the crisis in our cities.
We must transition from a “them and those” to a “we and us.” Until this happens there will be no ownership and without this sense of ownership and responsibility, there will be no change. We are encouraged to see leaders from multiple sectors of our community that include arts and entertainment, business, civic, social, education, faith, health, and media make their contribution in response to the HIV crisis in our communities. Our success over the next decade will be dependent upon our ability to engage the entire community in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
When we understand that this is not about “good people” and “bad people” but behaviors that put us at risk, we’ll see change. The Institute of Human Virology’s JACQUES Initiative is pleased to share a portion of what we do through our website. We are purposely engaging the community and invite your partnership as we address one of the defining issues of our time.
Derek E Spencer MS CRNP
Executive Director of the JACQUES Initiative
Institute of Human Virology
University of Maryland, School of Medicine