It’s December 1st again, and sometimes it feels as though World AIDS Day has always been with us. Around the world, it’s a time for people to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with the disease and to remember people who have died. Actually, the occasion, if that’s what it should be called, kicked off in 1988. There was never a global health day before that time.
But then, there was never a disease quite like AIDS. Estimates are that more than 34 million people on our planet are living with HIV, and more than 25 million between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most catastrophic pandemics in history. And in case you didn’t know, all the “cause” ribbons we see now, from pink for breast cancer to purple for domestic violence, grew from the red ribbons worn since the 1980s to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS.
In the U.S., the 2013 World AIDS Day theme is “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation.” I like the United Nations’ global theme better: “Getting to Zero.” Its focus is a world with zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths. (Why the U.S. chose a different theme makes no sense!)
Here’s three easy ways you can get involved:
- Attend a World AIDS Day event. To find one near you, the POZ website (as in HIV-positive) offers a broad list of what’s happening across America. Supposedly, AIDS.gov offers a list, too, but I couldn’t find it and got tired of clicking around. UNAIDS, the United Nations’ effort, shares a calendar of activities worldwide.
- Take this quiz and measure your knowledge of HIV realities today. Designed for residents of the UK, people from any nation can learn a great deal from it, or pat themselves on the back for knowing more than most of their friends.
- Support the UN’s 2013 social media campaign, #ZeroDiscrimination. This effort aims to get people to speak out for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS to lead full and productive lives with dignity. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is its spokesperson.
Or, you could just be selfish and giving at the same time and get yourself tested. With at-home, over-the-counter tests available at the local drugstore, there’s no reason not to be sure about your status. Right now, women account for 1 in 5 of new HIV infections in the USA (there’s that 1 of every 5 number again!)
Women of color, particularly Black women, represent the majority of American women living with the disease and women newly infected. And, don’t let age fool you into a false security: the CDC reports that by 2015, half of the Americans living with HIV will be over more than 50 years old.
Stay safe, ladies. Stay aware. No glove, no love, and no hate.