The General Assembly is wrapping up their work today, and it’s anticipated that they’ll finish this year’s legislative session over the weekend.
In many ways, this has been a thrilling week to do HIV/AIDS advocacy in our state. We launched a campaign last December to support premium assistance for AIDS Drug Assistance Program patients in North Carolina. You showed up to support this campaign in a big way. Advocates spoke out in the media, met with legislators to educate them about this topic, and we packed the Senate gallery during HIV/AIDS Advocacy Day with dozens of community members from across the state speaking up for increased access to health insurance.
Our hard work paid off. The budget passed this week includes a provision authorizing ADAP to create a health insurance premium assistance program! On top of that, the legislature passed legislation legalizing syringe exchange programs in North Carolina. The governor is expected to sign both bills, and these measures are important tools our state needs to end AIDS and will save lives.
Even with these significant victories, I’ve been reminded of the challenges still ahead to make sure everyone in our community is afforded dignity and respect. The syringe exchange language was added at the last minute to a bill limiting public access to police body cameras opposed by many of our partners working in social justice. Legislative leadership has failed to repeal HB2, and is still discussing a proposed fix that would further stigmatize and shame our trans friends and family. Even in light of big victories, we must recommit ourselves to advocating for our entire community.
As we prepare for future efforts, I hope you’ll plan to join us later this fall at our annual HIV/AIDS Advocacy Conference hosted with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition. This year’s conference will be September 10th at Winston-Salem State University. Be on the lookout for more information in the coming weeks. We’ve got some exciting things in store for this year, including a pre-conference the day before focused on PrEP access, dynamic workshops, and the opportunity to reconnect with movement leaders from across our state.
Our community is stronger when we work together. I can’t wait to see what’s next.