U=U is a very confusing message to disseminate within an already complicated and often convoluted discussion about HIV. There are a number of things that we must consider when we are delivering this message:
- U=U is a slogan, so this is the focal point for branding, and what people will take away from this important message.
- U=U is only accurate or relatable to SEXUAL TRANSMISSION, and is immediately negated for other modes of transmission, such as intravenous drug use.
- U=U does not account for other preventable sexual or overall health concerns, like Hepatitis C, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, or numerous other viruses; which are becoming more frequent and in some cases, becoming even more difficult to treat. The U=U message, while in fact a true statement, has many implications for people at risk for HIV, as well as for those of us living with something I am working hard to address. I used this message long before the CDC made this consensus, however, I focused on how that fits into a larger prevention or treatment plan. The HIV Stops With Me Campaign does an excellent job at providing a platform for these discussions, because our voices need to be heard. I am dedicated to providing a message, not an implementation of a catchy slogan. WE NEED TO CREATE SPACES AND OPPORTUNITIES TO HAVE AN OPEN DIALOGUE ABOUT WHAT WE ARE PUTTING OUT TO THE MASSES. I fear, like as we witnessed within the roll-out of primitive HIV prevention messages of the 80s and 90s like GRID, or more recently with ambiguous miseducation from messages about PrEP/PEP; we will evoke a certain misunderstanding about those who are at risk, as well as risky behavior itself. Right now we should be focusing our energy toward applying strategic plans to better incorporate these prevention methods and messages into our public school systems, community programs, religious institutions, and garner the support from the business sector; just as we have for breast cancer and other diseases that currently, like HIV, have no cure. Prevention, early intervention, and treatment have come so far; yet our ability to disseminate the messages efficiently and effectively have fallen into the hands of individuals who, while extremely well versed, lack a physical connection to the people who will receive the message. We rarely see people such as the 30+ courageous Spokesmodels from this campaign, reaching the structural aspect of community planning, and being more central in the representation and relevancey of such messages or processes. I am driven to educate people not only about this virus or my experiences with it, but more so in uplifting people to a place where they are confident and capable of advocating and communicating about something that we must stop.
It is now 2017, and our goal to End The Epidemic by the 2020 time clock is ticking away. The only way that these messages will be able to lead us toward our ultimate goal, is if we ensure that our messages are reached by the right people, in the right ways, and across all avenues. We have to continue to normalize this discussion, and we still have yet to accomplish that. Many of us are still pleading to get into public schools, higher learning institutions, community centers, and churches to explain these messages and put them into context. Even though these are all public service institutions, we are still crippled by the stigma that surrounds this conversation, and must work tirelessly to bust down doors. We are still disregarding HIV, HCV, and STIs and dumping masses of money into other non-preventable causes like cancer or Alzheimer’s, despite the fact that we CAN absolutely prevent another person from becoming infected…with the proper channels and support. Not enough people are doing that. By no means am I insinuating that other issues are not as equally important, I am just solidifying my point that we have to rally the troops and work collaboratively on all fronts. Nobody wants to live with this or any other health issue, so why are we still missing the mark? Without the opportunity to receive an explanation and clarity about the prevention messages, people are left to decipher what it all means and how to apply these messages to their lives that will not further place them or others at risk. Now that it is crunch time, we have to be serious about this and make a push to some already great momentum. So to whoever, if anyone, reading this:
Leave a comment below and tell us when, where, and how we can connect these messages to those who need to hear them the most?