Every year on Dec. 1st World AIDS Day is recognized to commemorate the struggles, medical/scientific advancements and global movement against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
This year's theme is 'Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone's Voice".
The theme underscore's the dire need to address global inequities in HIV/AIDs testing and treatment. The World AIDS organization continues the fight to curb the spread and end the epidemic by 2030. However, this won't be possible without an organized effort from global leaders to address underserved regions experiencing rising HIV/AIDS diagnoses.
HIV's impact is not reduced to certain geographic areas, as it has ravished the LGBTQ community for decades, this year marking 40 years since the first US cases were reported. There must be a constant unlearning, learning and evolving in the effort to understand and combat this epidemic at every level.
Here are 5 things you can do in honor of World AIDS Day:
1. Know the Facts
As seen with COVID-19, misinformation regarding viruses and disease is spread often and can lead to real-life consequence. We must be knowledgeable of the facts in order to adequately protect ourselves and others.
According to the World Health Organization, "HIV can be transmitted via the exchange of a variety of body fluids from infected people, such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions...Individuals cannot become infected through ordinary day-to-day contact such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal objects, food or water".
Having proper understanding of HIV transmission can have a positive impact on casual discussions and perception of the virus and those living with it. Use this information to combat ignorance!
2. Know Your Status!
We hear it all the time, but it's important to take a vested interest in your health, and that extends to STI/STD and HIV/Aids testing. If you are sexually active, know your status and ask questions regarding the status of other sexual partners.
The CDC site offers an interactive search engine which allows you to find HIV Prevention Services in your area for HIV, PEP, PrEP and condoms.
3. Be Mindful of Language
Language is complex and often carries differing meanings and connotations depending on usage. There are also cultural and sub-cultural variances in language that can sometimes be harmful to persons living with HIV. The way information is presented can impact perception, and consequently affect the way we engage.
Use mindful language when discussing HIV/AIDS, be considerate and empathetic of humans who live and struggle with the disease daily. Avoid using words like "clean" or "dirty" when discussing any STD/STI, especially HIV. Instead of "HIV infected" try "person living with HIV". Poz has created a full chart listing preferred non-stigmatizing language. Go check it out!
4. Take PrEP!
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a HIV/AIDs prevention medication. The CDC reports that PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV. "PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken as prescribed", the CDC reports.
If you do not have health care insurance for prescription drugs you can visit readysetprep.hiv.gov and apply for the Ready, Set PrEP program which provides free PrEP-HIV medication.
There are also tons other programs and services that will ship PrEP to your home directly!
5. Use Your Voice & Platform to Combat Stigmas!
As the effort to end the HIV epidemic continues, more work must be done within the community to combat harmful stigmas about the disease.
Avert writes "Some people living with HIV and other key affected populations are shunned by family, peers and the wider community, while others face poor treatment in educational and work settings, erosion of their rights, and psychological damage. These all limit access to HIV testing, treatment and other HIV services".
Stigma is often fueled by ignorance regarding HIV and facts about transmission. These common stigmas also tend to induce fear, which can cause persons living with HIV to withhold the truth about their status or shy away from seeking routine medical attention.
Using your voice to call out harmful language and behavior, and address negative ideologies about the disease could help save lives and encourage others.
For more information about World AIDS Day 2021 head over to WorldAidsDay.org.