Advocacy Leads to Social Determinates in Health
Peggy Weil is the Public Policy and Grants Coordinator at Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP).
She has been working in HIV advocacy and harm reduction for more than nine years. In her current position, Peggy seeks funding for WNCAP’s innovative programs and provides guidance on public policies that influence the lives of people living with HIV. Her goal is to reduce the rate of new HIV infections and, ultimately, bring us closer to the end of the epidemic.
Ms. Weil started volunteering with WNCAP on a committee that produced an anti-stigma campaign that was recognized nationally by both the Treatment Access Expansion Project and the Chicago AIDS Foundation. Following this effort, she was hired under a grant from the National AIDS Fund to launch an advocacy program. This push came during a statewide crisis when the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), funded under the Ryan White Act, was wait-listing people for access to treatment medications as a way to contain costs. She worked with the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, local advocates, and community partners across the US to build legislative support to end the wait-listing.
In the United States, more than 51% of newly reported HIV cases are in the South, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Across the region, early testing and treatment is crucial to get those who test positive into medical care that can provide life-sustaining treatment regimens and lower viral loads to undetectable levels for most recipients. For those not living with HIV, PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a daily pill that can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%. These exciting scientific advances mean that ending the HIV epidemic is in sight.
Ms. Weil prioritizes funding programs that increase the engagement of people living with and most affected by HIV.
“People with lived experience are invaluable when it comes to designing programs or connecting with people. My job is to provide the opportunity and the support to help them be successful,” said Ms. Weil. AIDS United has funded several important program initiatives.
WNCAP’s advocacy program offers people living with HIV opportunities to lead advocacy efforts on HIV policies and the social determinants of health that influence the course of the epidemic. The nonprofit is celebrating its third year of collaborating with ABIPA, a local health equity organization, in a joint effort to promote awareness of PrEP to disproportionately affected communities, especially African American men and women. WNCAP plans to expand community outreach with ABIPA’s support, providing PrEP counseling and referrals through its subsidized pharmacy program.
WNCAP was formed as a nonprofit in 1986, just five years after the national epidemic began. It was organized by a small group of people working to overcome the devastating consequences of the social injustices of homophobia, AIDS hysteria, housing discrimination, poverty, and hunger. It is this legacy that influences WNCAPs intersectional work today. “I can’t imagine how difficult those early days were. I really couldn’t be prouder to be able to work for WNCAP today,” concluded Ms. Weil.
WNCAP provides HIV-related case management; HIV/HCV/STD testing, prevention, education, and referral to care; a subsidized pharmacy program, including PrEP and hepatitis C treatment navigation; syringe services, including overdose reversal kits; and advocacy activities across 18 counties in western North Carolina.