MTV Staying Alive|04.03.2013|Feature News
Our grantee Tyler Spencer writes about “The Big Push” a fresh new approach to tackling AIDS and tells you how you can play your part…

We’ve got so much love for Tyler Spencer, our amazing former grantee and founder of The Grassroot Project – which uses Athletes to deliver HIV messages to young people in Washington DC.

Tyler has been writing for The Coca Cola Company about “The Big Push” a new approach to tackling HIV and AIDS from the grassroots up, and we wanted to share it with you and show you how YOU can get involved.

Have a read about “The Big Push” below and find out more about the amazing work that Tyler has done with us here.
It’s been more than 30 years since clinicians diagnosed the first case of AIDS. Since the early 1980s, more than 30 million people have died of AIDS, and today more than 30 million are living with HIV. These numbers are so large, they’re tough for me to even fathom.

Our first response to the pandemic was to scramble for a “silver bullet” – governments, corporates, and foundations invested billions of dollars in research to find a vaccine, cure, or treatment. While these investments surely paid off—more than 8 million people are currently on life-saving AIDS drugs—we’ve learned that the silver bullet approach is unrealistic…new HIV infections have far outpaced our ability to provide treatment, and it is going to take a “combination approach” to really turn the tide on AIDS.

The Big Push kicks off on the heels of recent scientific discoveries  that have given us real hope to end AIDS in the course of my lifetime (yes, that truly is a “big” statement). A series of clinical trials have showed that the same drugs used to treat AIDS can also be used to prevent HIV which is huge news.

But why use a word as dramatic as ‘push’? Shouldn’t it just be ‘The Big News’ or ‘The Big Discovery’? No. Stigma has plagued our ability to respond effectively to AIDS in the past. We have struggled to normalize conversations about something as sensitive as HIV and AIDS, to end discrimination against those living with the disease.

In choosing the word “push,” The Global Fund is acknowledging that it’ll take a team effort to end AIDS. To me, The Big Push ushers in a new era in the epidemic’s history, one where we will tackle prevention just as much as treatment – and do it together.

Here’s where you and I come in.

Changing the culture around a disease is a tall task, but the task will be easier if each of us plays our part. Here are some tactics that can make our efforts more effective:

1.    Use existing channels. Each of us should think about how our own strengths and our own networks (however large or small) can be used to contribute to the fight against AIDS.

2.    Prepare socially relevant messages. If we are trying to change behaviors, we have to meet people “where they are,” and messages need to be packaged and delivered in a way that is palatable. Through our organization (The Grassroot Project), we’ve learned that young people in DC learn best when they are the ones driving the discussion. Instead of lecturing them, our athletes see themselves as facilitators.

3.    Know that AIDS is everyone’s fight. HIV/AIDS is the most polarizing health issue I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. It has affected people of every race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, and gender, but it has also ironically caused a lot of division and finger pointing. If AIDS doesn’t discriminate, why should we?

It’s our job to make sure that 30 years from now we are not looking at another 30 million new cases of HIV/AIDS. Science tells us that that number can be 0, but we’ve got to come together to make it happen. Are you ready to join me in The Big Push?

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