Achieving Health Equity to End the Epidemics: Partnership

By Jacquelyn Clymore May 16, 2018

Ending the HIV and hepatitis epidemics is a task too large for any one person, organization, or country to handle alone. I remember the early stages of the HIV epidemic, when we were losing friends and colleagues daily. Even slowing the spread of the virus felt like an insurmountable obstacle, much less ending it. However, partners remind us that we’re not in this alone.

As an organization that exists to unite public health departments all over the country in the fight to end HIV and hepatitis, partnership is in NASTAD’s DNA. Over the years, we’ve forged trusted partnerships with individuals, community, governments, and organizations who are dedicated to the cause of ending the epidemics of HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases. It is imperative that NASTAD continues to build on these relationships and develop new ones if we’re to succeed in the struggle to end the epidemics.

One of our closest partners has been the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD). In 2014, NASTAD and NCSD launched a joint toolkit, Addressing Stigma: A Blueprint for HIV/STD Prevention and Care Outcomes for Black and Latino Gay Men. The toolkit contains 17 recommendations for reducing public health stigma that prevents Black and Latino gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) from receiving optimal health care. Over the past four years, this has been one of NASTAD’s most popular resources. During my term as Board Chair, I plan on collaborating with NCSD to update the toolkit with new information and actions for health departments, in order to recognize and address stigma occurring in public health practice.

Also in the spirit of this year’s theme “Achieving Health Equity to End the Epidemics,” I will continue NASTAD’s work with the Prevention Access’ Undetectable = Untransmittable campaign, which affirms that durably virally suppressed people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART) do not sexually transmit the virus. Prevention Access’ campaign helps reduce stigma against people living with HIV, which is an important role in achieving health equity for this community.

The HIV and hepatitis epidemics and the intersecting issues that make them so intractable, such as stigma and discrimination, are not confinedsolely to the United States. The epidemics are international epidemics, and as such some of NASTAD’s most important partnerships are with ministries of health in other parts of the world. NASTAD’s Globalfield offices provide people living with and who are at risk for HIV and hepatitis with programs and services that help improve their prevention, care, and treatment. These offices contribute to the efforts of achieving health equity by servicing individuals in low-income countries who have a hard time accessing the resources they need to receive quality health care. During my time as Board Chair, we’ll strive to tell more stories about the important work of NASTAD’s field offices.

NASTAD’s goal of achieving health equity is made stronger and more effective because of its national and international partnerships with amazing organizations that have the same vision of a world free of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other infectious diseases. During my tenure as Board Chair, I look forward to strengthening the partnerships we already have and building new coalitions that can help us end the HIV and hepatitis epidemics once and for all.