“For me, it comes down to reducing stigma about HIV and AIDS,” says Jamaal Henderson, a member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) Philadelphia, a Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee. “This disease could be no worse than diabetes if managed properly, but people are still being infected at high rates because partners are worried to say, ‘I’m positive.’”
ACT UP Philadelphia first received a grant from Bread & Roses in 1992. The group is committed to ensuring that people with HIV have access to “the regular kind of dignities most people have but the government feels that people with HIV don’t deserve,” Henderson says. “We are united in anger and committed to ending the AIDS crisis through direct action.”
For ACT UP Philadelphia, securing these dignities includes fighting for accessible and affordable housing, marching against police brutality, and fighting racism in the Gayborhood. ACT UP Philadelphia advocates for all aspects of wellness for people with HIV and pays specific attention to the LGBTQ community, women, people of color, and injection drug users. The group’s efforts made naloxone (Narcan), a medication that instantly reverses an opiate overdose, widely accessible to first responders in Philadelphia. ACT UP Philadelphia has also been instrumental in pushing for the publication of the AIDS assessment survey, which evaluates the needs of homeless people living with HIV and AIDS.
Right now, ACT UP Philadelphia is building a statewide coalition to secure more affordable housing and protect the Affordable Care Act. “Thousands of people living with HIV access their medication through the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion,” Henderson says. “The priority right now is keeping access to medication.”