On January 10, 2013, all of us at the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) were very excited to learn that the documentary How to Survive a Plague was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature as part of the 85th Academy Awards ceremony to be held on Sunday, February 24, 2013. Set during the late 1980s and early 1990s when many people were dying of AIDS, How to Survive a Plague tells the important story of how brave young activists, many of them facing their own mortality, worked together in two HIV/AIDS advocacy groups – ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) and TAG (Treatment Action Group) – to advance the development and accessibility of life-saving treatments for people living with HIV. Because of those activist efforts, new HIV/AIDS treatments were fast-tracked through the drug development process and countless lives were saved.
But HIV activism didn’t end in the 1990s. In many ways, the most exciting AIDS activism is happening now, at a time when we can turn the tide of the HIV epidemic and eventually achieve the end of AIDS.
EJAF is proud to support some of the most important contemporary AIDS activism. For example, EJAF provides significant funding for the ongoing work of the Treatment Action Group (TAG). Here are just a few examples of TAG’s recent leadership:
• In 2012, TAG advocated successfully for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant accelerated approval to bedaquiline – the first new drug and drug class approved to treat tuberculosis (TB) in over 40 years. TB is globally the leading cause of death among people with HIV/AIDS, and better drugs to treat it are badly needed.
• At last summer’s International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., TAG was a leading community organization calling for a Global Scientific Strategy for an HIV Cure and TAG advocates worked tirelessly to push for increased federal funding for cure-related research.
• In Washington, D.C., this past December, TAG organized an important meeting of HIV activists, providers, and policy-makers to explore ways to enhance progress against HIV in the United States. From these discussions, TAG and its allies are now working to develop specific tools and proposals for how community organizations, state and local governments and the federal government can better use scarce resources to achieve dramatic and lasting changes in the U.S. epidemic. The stakes are high. If federal, state and city governments maintain commitment and adequate investment in the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and health care reform, more than 75,000 new HIV infections could be averted in the U.S. by 2015 and nearly 250,000 additional people living with HIV would have the benefit of HIV treatment.
To achieve these important goals, continued activism is needed by the Elton John AIDS Foundation and its allies and grantees such as the Treatment Action Group, AIDS United, amfAR, Black AIDS Institute, Harm Reduction Coalition, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, National Minority AIDS Council, Positive Women’s Network, and Sister Love, to name just a few.
The decisions we make as a nation in 2013 could mean the difference between achieving an AIDS-free generation and finding a cure for AIDS in our lifetime, or facing another decade of rising numbers of HIV infections and needless deaths. The Treatment Action Group has put forward a plan that could drastically reduce HIV infections in the U.S., and we have the knowledge and the expertise to do so. Like those brave activists in the late 1980s, we must band together to end the political stalemate and backwards thinking in Washington and fight for the funding and the policies that will make an AIDS-free future a reality.
Please support EJAF and TAG in this important effort.
 Holtgrave DR, Hall HI, Wehrmeyer L, Maulsby C. Costs, Consequences and Feasibility of Strategies for Achieving the Goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in the United States: A Closing Window for Success? AIDS Behav. (2012).