When Pandemics Don’t End: World AIDS Day and the Fight for Decriminalization

This World AIDS Day, the Williams Institute and the African American Policy Forum will gather leading thinkers and advocates from the international HIV/AIDS community for an Under the Blacklight event to discuss 40 years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. As we confront a new pandemic that highlights underlying racial and socioeconomic disparities, panelists will discuss strategies to approach HIV as a public health issue rather than a crime.

Since it first emerged in the early 1980s, the HIV-AIDS pandemic has claimed an estimated death toll of more than 40 million. Advances in treatment mean a positive HIV diagnosis no longer automatically translates into a death sentence. While advances have been made, people worldwide continue to die of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses due to disparities in health care access. Last year alone, 1.5 million people globally contracted HIV.

In addition to health care, criminal enforcement of HIV continues to impact people living with HIV/AIDS. HIV criminal laws disproportionately harm people of color, women, LGBT people, and sex workers—precisely the communities HIV prevention initiatives aim to reach.

December 1, 2021

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