Outside a small bar in New York City on June 28, 1969, a series of events would lead to what some consider to be the beginning of the modern-day lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) equal rights movement (Kupier, 2019). As was typical of the era, raids of LGBT establishments by the police occurred on a regular basis. The Stonewall Inn, a tiny bar in Greenwich Village frequented by the LGBT community, was raided by the police for selling liquor without a license. The bar's patrons were victimized and physically assaulted merely for being at the bar. However, in a turn of events, the patrons fought back. Tired of being the target of police brutality, members of the LGBT community rallied together, and over the course of the ensuing days, a series of riots, subsequently referred to as the Stonewall riots, would change the course of history (Kupier, 2019). Over the years, cities have recognized this event with pride celebrations. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. It is incredible to think about how much has changed—and sadly, how much has not changed.
As an organization, ANAC supports equality for all communities. We incorporate this philosophy through our strategic plan and our policy work. Part of ANAC's core ideology states that “policy must be grounded in patient advocacy, human rights, compassion and social justice” (Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, n.d., p. 2). We recognize that as nurses and health care providers, we are not only an influential voice but we also possess expertise that is invaluable to health care and human rights.
In October 2018, the Board of Directors adopted a policy agenda that focuses on four areas: (a) access to care for all persons living with HIV, (b) support and protection of human rights—with a focus on decriminalization of HIV exposure/transmission and support for LGBT rights in all jurisdictions locally and globally, (c) dissemination and implementation of evidence-based and scientifically driven HIV treatment and prevention, and (d) support for HIV workforce development. Within these four domains, ANAC remains active in supporting legislation and policies that directly or indirectly have an impact on these areas and in educating stakeholders and constituents about these issues.
Historically, ANAC has always supported LGBT rights. In 2000, the Board of Directors endorsed a position statement calling for recognition of domestic partnerships well ahead of the passing of marriage equality in 2013. ANAC has also published a position statement on Black men who have sex with men (MSM) at risk for HIV, supporting the health care rights of Black MSM; advocating for the need to develop culturally appropriate treatment and prevention programs; allocating resources (financial and human) at the national, state, and local levels; and endorsing the need for inclusion of members of the Black MSM community in the development and planning of federal-level strategies related to HIV. The tenets of this position statement have not changed over the years. The issues are as salient today as they were when the position statement was first published in 2006.
HIV disproportionately affects the LGBT community, with MSM and transgender women accounting for the largest burden of HIV infections in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Much of this is related to the intersectionality of stigma, access to care, classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. Until all of these issues can be adequately addressed, our work as health care providers, advocates, and leaders must not cease. I encourage all of our members and readers who are not actively involved in policy or advocacy work to consider participating—either at the local level, with state or other professional organizations, or with ANAC's policy committee. One voice can become the voice of many. Much like those individuals who decided to take a stand outside of the Stonewall Inn, your voice can become part of a larger movement.
During the month of June, when New York hosts WorldPride and communities across the country celebrate with parades and festivities, please remember that these celebrations are more than rainbows, pride flags, and glitter. Rather, it is a time to reflect, to pay respect to those who paved the path for LGBT rights, and to renew our energies as we continue to fight for equality. Our work continues—and we are grateful for the support of our members and allies who stand alongside us as we fight for not only LGBT rights but also for human rights.