This year’s 10th anniversary of PrEP is a landmark moment in the movement to reach zero new HIV transmissions and the tools available to us to get there. Over the last decade, organizations like Texas Health Action and the Kind Clinic ushered in a new sexual health revolution and culture shift across this country from a fight against HIV, to a fight for dignity, ownership of our sex lives, our identities and the basic human right to access sexual healthcare. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the 10th anniversary of U=U, Undetectable = Untransmittable. Our ability to be here today marking these 10 years is because of a multi-generational, multi-racial movement for care that a generation of queer people died fighting for.
“The only way we’ll have real pride is when we demand recognition of a culture that isn’t just sexual. It’s all there – all through history we’ve been there; but we have to claim it, and identify who was in it, and articulate what’s in our minds and hearts and all our creative contributions to this earth. And until we do that, and until we organize ourselves block by neighborhood by city by state into a united visible community that fights back, we’re doomed.” – Larry Kramer
We lost a giant in this movement in the last 10 years; one of my heroes and someone foundational to this work. Larry Kramer passed in May of 2020. I don’t have the words to eulogize him properly, but Larry Kramer taught me that activism is many things, including an artform that seeks to raise our collective conscience to take action. Silence does in fact = death. PrEP was my avenue to not be silent. I was 18 years old when I first went on PrEP thanks to, at the time, the Austin PrEP Access Project, the precursor to Kind Clinic. I then dedicated my late teens and first half of my 20’s advocating for access to PrEP and HIV care. I was born in 1996. I’ve never lived in a world without HIV. I also don’t know who I would be without this fight. It is so central to who I am, how I am, why I am and my view of the world. But more than anything, my learned capacity to do good where I can.
“Activism is very seductive, and writing is painful and hard. It’s very scary to have a death threat living over your head. Activism is very sustaining. But I don’t view myself as a political person. I’m just someone who desperately wants to stay alive.” – Larry Kramer
I lost a friend to AIDS in the last 10 years. I now work in politics lobbying to improve working conditions for immigrant and low-wage workers in Texas, including access to healthcare. Our bodies shouldn’t be political but we live in a regressive time where they are. We shouldn’t have to desperately want to stay alive. 10 years into a world with PrEP and U=U and there is still more work to do. It’s on us to keep organizing.
Juan Benitez currently serves as Workers Defense Action Fund and Workers Defense Project’s Communications Director. He focuses on advancing progressive policies throughout Texas and electing candidates committed to economic and racial justice. Juan is the Chair of the City of Austin’s Immigrant Affairs Commission, appointed by Greg Casar and now Councilmember Chito Vela. The Commission advises Austin City Council on issues of concern to immigrants, particularly in the areas of health and human services, education, and the demographic makeup of the Austin immigrant community. Prior to Workers Defense and work with the City of Austin, Juan spent 7 years advocating for access to HIV care and PrEP, ultimately overseeing communications strategies for Vivent Health in Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Missouri.