My first experience as an activist (and a fundraiser) was participating in the inaugural AIDS Care Walk in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois in 1993 when I was 9 years old. I learned from my mother, who worked at the county health department at the time, about what HIV and AIDS were, how you could contract HIV, what people could do to prevent it, and why there was so much fear and stigma around it.
But the most important thing I learned from her was that it is our responsibility, living with HIV or not, to take action to support people who are targeted and stigmatized by HIV and AIDS. That it is all of our responsibility to make sure our communities have the resources that they need to live and thrive, as well as to raise awareness and understanding about the virus and the social determinants of health to help fight the stigma and misinformation that harms our community.
Nearly 30 years later, the HIV and AIDS epidemic is not over and there is still much work to do to continue to raise awareness and understanding about HIV. In the United States, overall diagnoses of HIV are declining, but HIV continues to disproportionately impact Black and Latinx gay and bisexual men and trans women. As of 2022, 35 states have laws that continue to criminalize HIV exposure when the solution is clear: people power. In our region, only Oregon has no legal statutes that explicitly criminalize HIV transmission or exposure and across the region advocates are working to ensure equitable access and funding for PrEP and other prevention methods.
That’s why this year on World AIDS Day, we want to elevate this year’s theme, Achieving Equity to End HIV and the action to #RocktheRibbon, especially for those of us who are allies. Our work today and every day is to honor the people who have died because of the inequities in support for people living with HIV and AIDS, celebrate the many people who’ve long been in this fight, fight the stigma that harms our community living with HIV and AIDS, and raise awareness about testing, prevention, and treatment options that don’t stigmatize sex, but promote pleasure
Pride Foundation was founded in the midst of the early days of epidemic, during a time when long-acting injectables, PrEP/PEP, and giving birth and raising families despite a diagnosis, were dreams of LGBTQ+ people fighting for the lives of our family and friends, while our government did nothing in the face of hundreds of thousands of deaths.
This legacy of community activism continues today, and we are so grateful to work alongside incredible grantee partner organizations across the Northwest who are working every day to provide care to people living with HIV and AIDS, as well as critical prevention, education, and advocacy efforts. Today, we honor these remarkable organizations listed below and invite you to join us in supporting them.
We mourn the loved ones we have lost. We honor the millions of people across the world who are living with HIV and AIDS who represent the solution to this ongoing crisis. And we rock our ribbons to continue to raise awareness, end stigma, and show support for our community.
The ribbon is a river and we will never stop working to end the HIV and AIDS pandemic until LGBTQ+ people and all people can be who they are, wherever they are. Our progress has shown an end is possible, and we will not rest until that is a reality.