By Neil Giuliano
From the Desk of the CEO
In a watershed moment for civil rights, President Obama this month declared that he supports full marriage equality. He says he has reached a point in his life where it is important for him to move forward and affirm that same-sex couples should have the rights and status of marriage, recognized by state governments for now. Mr. Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. president to take such a position.
We applaud President Obama for the stance he has taken. It is a bold and significant move toward the day when marriage equality for all citizens will be recognized by our federal government as well. It’s especially heartening for the many leaders in San Francisco who have been at the leading edge of this issue for many years. To them, and to the President, we are grateful.
The president’s actions are not only important to matters of equality, they are also vital to our work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Supporting marriage equality reduces the stigma and homophobia that often prevent LGBT people from seeking out the services they need to maintain their emotional and physical well-being. When people feel affirmed, respected, and valued, they are more likely to take better care of their health: They get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, they talk openly with their sex partners, and they seek out information and resources.
There are currently 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS, and approximately 50,000 new HIV infections occur nationwide every year. The epidemic continues to have a disproportionate impact on gay and bisexual men, and racial and ethnic minorities.
HIV has always thrived in marginalized communities, whether it’s gay and bisexual men, people of color, the homeless, or those living in poverty. Anything we can do to bring people in from the margins, as the president did by advocating for same-sex marriage, represents a dramatic step forward in our efforts to end HIV/AIDS.
Just last year on World AIDS Day, President Obama laid out his vision for creating the first AIDS-free generation. Supporting marriage equality is a critical component of that vision. When the president uses his power to eliminate the prejudices that are so closely tied to HIV/AIDS, he helps us to reduce new infections and expand access to care across the country.
We applaud the president, but I also want to applaud all of my remarkable colleagues at San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Every day, through their important work, they are fighting stigma and homophobia. They are providing people in our community the tools they need to stay healthy. They are giving all of our clients a sense of self worth. They are helping people feel included, and cared for, and valued. They are truly making a difference in the fight against HIV, and I’m so proud to work with such a talented group of professionals.
San Francisco AIDS Foundation looks forward to continuing to work with the Obama Administration on other issues important to the fight against HIV/AIDS, including careful implementation of the Affordable Care Act and HIV service integration to address the health care needs of all people living with HIV.
Until there is full equality at all levels of government, and until AIDS is no more, our work continues.
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