This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.
In 1985, Paul Kawata moved to Washington, D.C., to — in his words — “fight an epidemic.” That epidemic was HIV/AIDS. We celebrate World AIDS Day this week while mourning the deaths of the five people who died in the mass shooting earlier this month at an LGBTQ Club in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Kawata, Executive Director of the National Minority AIDS Council in Washington, D.C. says, “HIV sits at the intersection of race, sexual orientation, of gender, of gender identity.” He calls these scary times for the LGBTQ community, minorities and women. But he says we are much further along in the fight against HIV/AIDS than we were 37 years ago.”
Kawata says the big turning point in the epidemic came in the mid-1990s with the approval of protease inhibitors for prescription use. He says it was the first reasonable treatment for the disease. Kawata says HIV/AIDS went from being a deadly disease to being a manageable disease.
“I think the challenge is it still requires that you stay on meds for the rest of your life,” he said
Kawata says it also requires that you have access to health care and to doctors to help you manage the care and to manage your viral load which is a key indicator of your health.
Insurance and HIV programs, including Medicaid, which is one of the biggest providers of HIV medicines, help people gain access to otherwise unaffordable drugs.
But, Kawata says the question for the future is, “How do we build equity into the health care system so that particularly people of color have access because they are disproportionately impacted by the disease.” He says the statistics are grim for minorities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50% of black gay men will likely be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS during their lifetime and Black women are much more likely than white women to be diagnosed with the disease.
On Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, World AIDS Day they will be holding a Capitol Hill Champions Reception, 2359 Rayburn House Office Building, to honor members of Congress who have stood up for people living with HIV AIDS.
To find out more go to NMAC.org or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.