World AIDS Day 2020

Published on November 30, 2020

Office of HIV Resources raises concerns that pandemic is affecting at-risk population outreach

The Denver
Department of Public Health & Environment’s (DDPHE) Office of HIV Resources is asking the community to use this year’s World AIDS Day, Tuesday, December 1, as a reminder that those who are at-risk for contracting HIV, living with HIV or supporting someone living with HIV need to reconnect with their partners, their friends and family, and the community at large in order to stay safe and healthy during these challenging times.

“The pandemic has definitely had an effect on our community. It has impacted how people are able to access and engage actively in their healthcare, as well as their ability to access HIV testing and resources,” says Robert George, DDPHE’s HIV Resources Section Program Manager. “Connection is still important, and our community members have done as much as they can to support each other right now and help keep people engaged in much-needed services.”

World AIDS Day began in 1988 as a day to unite in the fight to end the HIV epidemic, show support for people living with HIV, and honor those who have lost their lives to an AIDS-related illness. This year’s theme, “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact,” speaks to strengthening the capacity and resilience of communities and health systems to address HIV prevention services in the midst of a global pandemic, when people are less likely to seek out critical services and remain in close contact with their community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 50,000 people continue to acquire HIV each year and that 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV in the U.S. The CDC estimates that about one in seven are unaware of their HIV status in the U.S. In addition, gay/bisexual men, other men who have sex with men, transgender individuals. and men and women of color continue to have disproportionately high HIV rates. This is particularly true among African Americans, Latinx and American Indian communities, as well as those experiencing homelessness and those who have been previously incarcerated.

In addition, a study released in July 2020 by GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) found that:

One in five people living with HIV have experienced verbal harassment or threats.

  • A third reported having their HIV status disclosed without their consent by someone close to them.
  • One in five reported being treated differently by their doctor
  • Many reported being pressured at work to disclose their status.
  • 18% of respondents reported suicidal thoughts within the past 12 months.
  • 17% of people living with HIV report “often” skimping on food because of poverty.
  • 15% said they’ve fallen behind with the bills.

 “Ending the HIV epidemic means that we have to recognize and address the social challenges that keep marginalized groups from accessing vital services,” says Robert McDonald, Executive Director of DDPHE. “Our goal is to make sure that we are getting everyone connected to what they need, not only to prevent HIV, but also to stay as healthy as possible if they are living with HIV.”

As Denver’s nationally accredited local public health agency, DDPHE works collaboratively with city, state, federal, and community partners to advance the city’s public health goals. With the help of a $7.5 million grant through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the Office of HIV Resources oversees funding of services for people living with HIV in six Colorado counties, including: Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson. The Denver HIV Resources Planning Council (DHRPC) comprises community members and is responsible for investing the allocation of federal funding will be allocated to most effectively meet the needs of those in the Denver Metro Area living with HV.  .

Denver has long been a city on the forefront of the fight against HIV. It was the fourth city in North America to join the fight of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, as part of Fast-Track Cities. This global network of more than 300 cities is committed to attaining the UNAIDS90-90-90 target: that 90% of people living with HIV will know their HIV status; that 90% of those who know their status will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART); and that 90% of those receiving sustained ART will achieve viral suppression. 

Please visit the Office of HIV Resources for more information, or contact us to schedule an interview.