The ADAP Advocacy Association prides itself on bringing together ALL stakeholders concerned about improving access to care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, namely through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). To that end, one of the most important — and arguably most under appreciated — stakeholder groups in this fight are social workers. Social workers specializing in HIV/AIDS-related supports and services often facilitate critical linkages to care for their patients.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) recognizes the critical role being played by social workers because they are uniquely positioned to integrate all facets of the care continuum. In fact, many of the NHAS' key indicators cannot be achieved without social workers on the front lines — mainly increasing the percentage of persons with diagnosed HIV infection who are retained in HIV medical care to at least 90 percent, and reducing the percentage of persons in HIV medical care who are homeless to no more than 5 percent.
Since the dawn of the epidemic, social workers have made the difference between life and death for countless people living with the disease. In fact, Michael Shernoff, MSW summarized it best in 1990 when he penned the following:
"This profession can be justly proud of the often pioneering work done by social workers from the onset of the AIDS health crisis in developing psychosocial services of singular diversity and effectiveness that reach out to people infected and affected by HIV. Even before the significance of HIV was known and complete knowledge of the modes of transmission was verified, social workers began to make important contributions to all professionals' understanding of AIDS."
Linkages to care characterizes where social workers fit within the care continuum.We need to be doing more to support their efforts, too.
The premier event for social workers specializing in the HIV/AIDS treatment area is the National Conference on Social Work and HIV/AIDS. In fact, on May 25—28 in Atlanta, Georgia, social workers will convene annually for the 29th time to participate in discussions focusing on "Ending HIV/AIDS through Social Justice: Health Equity for All!" The Boston College School of Social Work sponsors the conference.
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The ADAP Advocacy Association for the last several years has convened its ADAP Regional Summit in the South, in order to call attention to the epidemic's disproportionate impact on the region. We're excited to see that the National Conference on Social Work and HIV/AIDS is convening in the South for that very same reason. According to the conference website, "...the Southern region of the U.S. is experiencing an unprecedented increase in HIV cases; which is why it is fitting for us to convene this year’s conference in the heart of the South."
In 1990, Shernoff lamented the social injustice faced by people living with HIV/AIDS during the previous decade. Nearly twenty years later, his words still ring true evidenced by the chosen theme for the 29th Annual National Conference on Social Work and HIV/AIDS. No matter how much things change, they stay the same.
Learn more about the conference online at http://nationalconferenceonsocialworkandhivaids.com. Questions? Contact them at Info@NationalConferenceOnSocialWorkandHivAids.com.
Additional resources include:
- Professional Association of Social Workers in HIV & AIDS (PASWHA)
- National Association of Social Workers HIV/AIDS Spectrum (NASW)
- Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW)
 AIDS.gov; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; "National AIDS Strategy"; 2017.
 Shernoff, Michael; The Body Dot Com; "Why Every Social Worker Should Be Challenged by AIDS"; 1990.