Martin Luther King Jr Day, 2021

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr, we share excerpts from “The American Dream” speech given at Drew University in February, 1964. 

In developing this blog, we reflected on the past year of civil rights protests, the groundswell of interconnected social justice movements, and the momentous Black Lives Matter movement.  We reflected on the approaching inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States and the violent terroristic response that saw our nation’s capital gripped by violence. 

We reread many works by Dr. King in considering what to share today.  Finally, excerpts from this speech seemed to carry messages that resonate with today’s struggles to fulfill the American Dream. We encourage you to read the entire speech online at the Drew University archives The American Dream

I would like to use as a subject from which to speak tonight, the American Dream. And I use this subject because America is essentially a dream, a dream yet unfulfilled. The substance of the dream is expressed in some very familiar words found in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is a dream.

Now one of the first things we notice about this dream is an amazing universalism. It does not say some men, it says all men. It does not say all white men, but it says all men which includes black men. It doesn’t say all Protestants, but it says all men which includes Catholics. It doesn’t say all Gentiles, it says all men which includes Jews. And that is something else at the center of the American Dream which is one of the distinguishing points, one of the things that distinguishes it from other forms of government, particularly totalitarian systems. It says that each individual has certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state. They are gifts from the hands of the Almighty God. Very seldom if ever in the history of the world has a socio-political document expressed in such profound eloquent and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of human personality.

28 Aug 1963, Washington, DC, USA — Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to participants in the Civil Rights Movement’s March on Washington from the Lincoln Memorial. It was from this spot that he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

But ever since the Founding Fathers of our nation dreamed this dream, America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself. On the one hand we have proudly professed the great principles of democracy. On the other hand we have sadly practiced the very antithesis of those principles. Indeed, slavery and racial segregation are strange paradoxes in the nation founded on the principle that all men are created equal.

But now, more than ever before, our nation is challenged to realize this dream. For the shape of the world today does not afford us the luxury of an anemic democracy, and the price that America must pay for the continued oppression of the Negro and other minority groups is the price of its own destruction. The hour is late and the clock of destiny is ticking out, and we must act now before it is too late.

We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. This is the challenge of the hour. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone.

Somehow we are interdependent.

Achieving Together Honors Human Rights Day

The United Nations (UN) declared December 10 to be Human Rights Day to honor the day in 1948 when the body adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN declared the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day to be “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights.” They developed this theme in light of “the COVID-19 pandemic and…the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts.”

The UN states in this year’s theme that, “We will reach our common global goals only if we are able to create equal opportunities for all, address the failures exposed and exploited by COVID-19, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.”

The UN Recover Better campaign states that:

Human Rights must be at the centre of the post COVID-19 world.

The COVID-19 crisis has been fuelled by deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination and other gaps in human rights protection. Only measures to close these gaps and advance human rights can ensure we fully recover and build back a world that is better, more resilient, just, and sustainable.

    • End discrimination of any kind: Structural discrimination and racism have fuelled the COVID-19 crisis. Equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID world.
    • Address inequalities: To recover from the crisis, we must also address the inequality pandemic. For that, we need to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights. We need a new social contract for a new era.
    • Encourage participation and solidarity: We are all in this together. From individuals to governments, from civil society and grass-roots communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post-COVID world that is better for present and future generations. We need to ensure the voices of the most affected and vulnerable inform the recovery efforts.
    • Promote sustainable development: We need sustainable development for people and planet. Human rights, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are the cornerstone of a recovery that leaves no one behind.

In a commentary appearing on the Journal of the American Medical Association website entitled, Racism, Not Race, Drives Inequity Across the COVID-19 Continuum, the authors noted that “significant racial and ethnic inequities have persisted across the continuum of COVID-19 morbidity, hospitalization, and mortality,” and “that fundamental causes of COVID-19 inequity include systemically racist policies, such as historic racial segregation and their inextricable downstream effects on the differential quality and distribution of housing, transportation, economic opportunity, education, food, air quality, health care, and beyond.” Similarly, we know that in Texas Black and Latinx peoplemade up approximately 75% of new HIV diagnoses in 2018 and that in order to reach the goals of the Achieving Together Plan, we must address these systemic barriers to equitable health outcomes.


(Image courtesy of amfAR)

Aligning with the 2020 Human Rights Day theme, the guiding principles of the Achieving Together Plan encourage us to follow the principles of social justice, equity, integration, empowerment, advocacy, and community to combat the HIV epidemic in Texas. It is only through acknowledging and honoring the humanity in each of us and addressing systemic racism and inequities while promoting human rights for all that we can truly end the HIV Epidemic in Texas and beyond.

Learn more about Human Rights Day here.

Achieving Together Honors World AIDS Day

UNAIDS declared the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day (December 1) to be “Global solidarity, shared responsibility,” and we at Achieving Together Texas couldn’t agree more with the theme. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, people living with HIV have faced a number of physical, emotional, psychological challenges. Many people in the HIV community have lost loved ones to COVID-19 this year – and much like HIV – the pandemic has only further exacerbated and shone a light on the inequities that exist in our current systems.

The guiding principles of the Achieving Together Plan implore us to use equity as a lens through which we advance our work and commit ourselves to the principles of social justice, equity, integration, empowerment, advocacy, and community. These guiding principles echo the UNAIDS theme of “Global solidarity, shared responsibility.”

We’d like to share a few excerpts from this year’s UNAIDS World AIDS Day website:

In 2020, the world’s attention has been focused by the COVID-19 pandemic on health and how pandemics affect lives and livelihoods. COVID-19 is showing once again how health is interlinked with other critical issues, such as reducing inequality, human rights, gender equality, social protection and economic growth. With this in mind, this year the theme of World AIDS Day is “Global solidarity, shared responsibility.”

Global solidarity and shared responsibility requires us to view global health responses, including the AIDS response, in a new way. It requires the world to come together to ensure that:

  • Health is fully financed. Governments must come together and find new ways to ensure that health care is fully funded. No one country can do it alone. Domestic and international funding for health must be increased.
  • Health systems are strengthened. Investments in the AIDS response in the past few decades have helped to strengthen health systems and have been supporting the COVID-19 response. But more needs to be done to further strengthen health systems and protect health-care workers.
  • Access is ensured. Life-saving medicines, vaccines and diagnostics must be considered as public goods. There must be global solidarity and shared responsibility to ensure that no individual, community or country is left behind in accessing life-saving health commodities.
  • Human rights are respected. A human rights approach applied everywhere will produce sustainable results for health. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fault lines in society and how key populations have been left behind in many parts of the world.
  • The rights of women and girls, and gender equality, are at the centre. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected women’s livelihoods, which have been disproportionally affected by lockdown measures, and lockdowns have resulted in an increase of violence against women in household settings. Women must be included in decision-making processes that affect their lives. The world cannot afford rollbacks in decades of hard-won gains in gender equality.

Now is the moment for bold leadership for equal societies, the right to health for all and a robust and equitable global recovery. This World AIDS Day join us in calling on countries to step up their efforts to achieve healthier societies. This World AIDS Day let us demand global solidarity and shared responsibility.”

Read more here.

2020 Texas HIV/STD Conference

Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Texas HIV/STD Conference will be virtual. The conference will still deliver the same quality you’ve come to love and expect, but now in the form of a FREE virtual experience. We hope the virtual event will expand the conference’s reach and provide the opportunity for all HIV/STD health professionals throughout Texas to attend. 

The purpose of the Texas HIV/STD Conference is to educate and inform HIV/STD health professionals who serve Texans living with and affected by HIV and other STDs. The conference typically draws 800 to 1,000 HIV/STD health professionals from throughout Texas.

Topics include:

  • National and State Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiatives
  • Treatment as Prevention (TasP)
  • Effective Messaging to Reduce Stigma
  • Test and Treat
  • Status Neutral Prevention and Treatment Cycle
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) 
  • Ending STDs and Viral Hepatitis in Texas
  • Health Equity/Community Mobilization
  • Focus on Affected Communities
  • Sexual Health
  • Trauma-Informed Care
  • STD Prevention and Clinical Care
  • Hepatitis C Prevention, Testing and Treatment

You won’t want to miss out! Register for free at: 2020 Texas HIV/STD Conference Registration

Black Trans Empowerment Week

November 13-20 is Black Trans Empowerment Week, a week-long celebration of Black trans life.  The theme this year, “When We Rise” focuses on rising up as a community as well as on a celebration of life.

In recognition of the week, we are reflecting on our recent conversation with Jayla Sylvester. In this webinar, Jayla discusses challenges faced by transgender people of color when accessing HIV prevention and care services.

Jayla explains transgender basics and expands on this information with personal narratives to illustrate how changing services and approaches can affirm and support transgender individuals. The presentation also highlights issues that need to be addressed to provide better services transgender individuals.

What can organizations do to better serve transgender individuals? Jayla emphasizes the need for a holistic approach. Holistic health encompasses mental, physical and spiritual health. This means that not only that services are available to a community, but the community is empowered to seek those services. By caring for the heart and soul of an individual, we’re also caring for the heart and soul of a community.

To explore a variety of resources to support transgender individuals in Texas, visit the Texas Transgender Alliance Resource Guide.