December 2, 2015 at 10:56 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Bowser signs ‘Fast-Track’ AIDS declaration
World AIDS Day, Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade, HIV Fast-Track Cities Declaration

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a U.N.-sponsored pledge to speed up efforts to combat AIDS. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday signed a United Nations sponsored pledge to speed up efforts to combat AIDS called the HIV Fast-Track Cities Declaration during a World AIDS Day ceremony in a reception room outside her office.

The declaration, sometimes referred to as the “90-90-90” pledge, calls on cities throughout the world to take steps to ensure that by the year 2020 90 percent of their residents with HIV know they are HIV positive, 90 percent of those with HIV will receive antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of people receiving that therapy, known as ART, will achieve the greatest possible viral suppression.

Bowser said D.C. is also committed to a 50 percent reduction in the number of new HIV infection cases by 2020.

The declaration was drafted one year ago at a conference of local and global leaders on AIDS hosted by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and co-convened by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Human Settlements Program, and the U.S.-based International Association of Providers of AIDS Care.

“On behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia I will put my signature on this pledge,” Bowser told the City Hall gathering that included several of her high-level LGBT appointees, including Sheila Alexander Reid, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

“So in the meantime we will continue to aggressively address the root cause of HIV infection,” Bowser said. “We will use proven and tried and true strategies. We will continue to partner with our medical providers, community members, and persons living with HIV. And we will benefit from our new, cutting-edge science supported by our new Center for AIDS Research.”

Joining Bowser at the table where she signed the document was Jose Zuniga, president of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, which is headquartered in D.C. The organization played a key role in the drafting of the declaration.

“The mayor signing the Paris declaration signifies her solidarity with the global movement of cities that are accelerating their local AIDS responses, recognizing that we have a very fragile window of opportunity – a five-year window of opportunity – to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030,” Zuniga told the Blade after the ceremony.

“It also signifies that she wishes to share lessons learned in the District – the incredible work that has already taken place here needs to be shared with other cities that are facing similar epidemics,” Zuniga said.

He said achieving the “90-90-90” goals by 2020 would be a key factor in reaching the 2030 goal of eliminating AIDS as a serious health threat.

Standing behind the mayor as she signed the declaration was Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Brenda Donald and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt. Also attending the event was Michael Kharfen, director of the city’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration known as HAHSTA.

Mayors of more than 50 “high HIV burden” cities around the world have so far signed the Fast Track Cities declaration, according to IAPAC. Among the U.S. cities, in addition to D.C., are Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Miami, Oakland, Providence and San Francisco.

Twenty-nine of the mayors or city leaders who signed the declaration – the largest number – come from nations in Africa.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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