Joining Mayor Sarno was Health and Human Services (HHS) Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, School Committeewoman and Councilor-Elect Maria Perez, New North Citizens Councils Program Director Richard Johnson, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) Community Outreach Manager Sasha Jimenez, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts Manager of Mobilization Shanique Spalding, Tapestry Health Program Director Robert Reardon, Out Now Director Holly Richardson, River Valley Counseling Center Assistant Program Director Christine Furtek, Springfield Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Attorney Talia Gee and Founder of the Springfield Pride Parade Organization Taurean Bethea.
The Fast-Track Cities initiative is comprised of a global network of cities and municipalities around the world that is supported by four core partners – The International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and the City of Paris.
Launched in December 2014, the network has grown to more than 380 cities and municipalities worldwide that are committed to accelerating their urban HIV, TB, and viral hepatitis (HBV and HCV) responses to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.3 of ending the HIV and TB epidemics, as well as the WHO’s HBV and HCV elimination goals, by 2030.
With respect to HIV, the Fast-Track Cities initiative was initially focused on the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets (90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of those living with HIV who know their status are on antiretroviral therapy or ART, and 90% of those on ART are virally suppressed).
In line with the new Global AIDS Strategy (2021-2026), Fast-Track Cities are now committed to a more ambitious set of targets (95-95-95) with the addition of fourth 95 target of 95% of at-risk individuals using combination HIV prevention. An adjunct to these targets is a call for zero stigma and discrimination. Achieving these targets places cities and municipalities on a trajectory towards zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero stigma against those living with and affected by HIV.
The Paris Agreement Declaration 4.0 is a declaration by these cities and municipalities from around the world to support actions and collaborative efforts towards achieving the United Nations 95-95-95 and other relevant goals with a focus on getting to zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths.
The City of Springfield is committed to working together to increase awareness, achieve zero HIV related stigma and ending the HIV epidemic.
Mayor Sarno stated, “It is important to continue to highlight how far we have come when addressing HIV/AIDS prevention and education. From our very own Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris and her dedicated team to all of our community stakeholders who have been on the frontlines, you all have done tremendous work in our Springfield community in helping to increase awareness and initiatives to address AIDS and HIV. My Administration is proud to support our partner organizations and agencies here today and stand in solidarity to support every entity across our great Nation and the world, as we stand united to help end the HIV epidemic. The City of Springfield and my Administration is proud to join with over 380 cities worldwide and hereby reaffirms our commitment to working together to achieve zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS related deaths by signing the Paris Agreement Declaration 4.0.”
“Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris and I fully support any endeavors that aims to increase awareness and strives to defeating this virus and the stigma that comes with it,” Mayor Sarno continued. “Our medical communities have done wonders with their research in finding new treatments and medicine. I am looking forward to partnering and collaborating together in the future on this worthwhile goal.”
During the ceremony, Mayor Sarno issued a proclamation recognizing and declaring Wednesday, December 1, 2021 as ‘Worlds AIDS Day’ in the City of Springfield. Additionally, HHS Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris read a poem and spoke about how many individuals struggle emotionally and mentally and feel discrimination and marginalized because of their sexual identity, especially gay Black men within the Black community.
HHS Commissioner Caulton-Harris stated, “I want to thank Mayor Sarno for his continued leadership on reaffirming the City of Springfield’s commitment to tackling this public health issue. The City of Springfield Department of Health and Human Services is committed to working together to achieve the ‘Fast Track City’ goal of ending HIV, TB and viral hepatitis epidemics by 2030. The Department of Health and Human Services is looking forward to working with our partners in the community in support of those initiatives and programs to achieve this end.”
“Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts is proud to be part of the movement to end the HIV epidemic and support a healthy, stigma-free, and resilient Springfield community,” said Shanique Spalding, Manager of Mobilization and BIPOC Organizing for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. “Together, providers, advocates, community leaders, and elected officials are working tirelessly to improve access to HIV testing, prevention, and care, encourage open conversations, and dismantle the systemic barriers that keep people from the care and information they need. We thank the City of Springfield for prioritizing the health and well-being of every community by becoming a Fast-Track City. We look forward to our continued partnership meeting the needs of all Springfield residents.”
Out Now Director Holly Richardson said, "While HIV/AIDS is no longer referred to as the “the gay plague,” we must continue to be diligent in raising awareness and breaking the stigma in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond."