December 1st marks World AIDS Day, and while many people don’t think they relate to this holiday, it’s a day we should all be celebrating– whether that be celebrating our friends living with and fighting AIDS or celebrating the long way science has come in educating us about this disease.
A lot has changed, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more room for improvement. What if we just talk about HIV/AIDS? Actually, yes. This is an extremely important point.
The real problem
Our attitudes. HIV does not discriminate, it isn’t geared for any particular sex groups. HIV can affect anyone. These people include you, me, my family, our neighbors, and strangers who open their doors for us. It’s time to put the “human” back in human immunodeficiency virus.
For example, when we think of cancer, those who encounter this disease are victims of it, but when we think about HIV/AIDS, there’s an insidious thinking that it’s someone’s fault. We will end the stigma that is associated with HIV/AIDS and accept no responsibility.
HIV = AIDS = death. This is the equation most people mistakenly believe, but it turns out that as much as we want to internalize things by putting them into simple equations, life doesn’t work like that. This equation is a good example of this.
Because HIV is a serious issue, it’s important to be careful with how you talk about it. It’s a way in which we can help destigmify this disease. There is one equation, however, that we’ve discovered true over time. Undetectable means untransmittable. This means that an HIV positive person cannot transmit HIV to an HIV negative person when they are undetectable, which people usually don’t realize.
Because we all share HIV status, regardless of whether it is negative or positive, we all contribute to HIV’s collaborative story. So instead of saying “people with HIV” we can say “those of us who are HIV positive” because it expresses inclusivity. It doesn’t just come down to how you talk about HIV; it also comes down to how you react to it. Enlightening yourself about the disease is a part of it. HIV cannot be transmitted by handshakes or urinating on a toilet seat. HIV is not a gay-specific issue.
Talking about sex in general is not easy, but it’s important to identify these misconceptions to move past them and awareness is a big factor in prevention.
HIV is no longer the death sentence that it was in the 80s. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “With increasing access to effective HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care, including for opportunistic infections, HIV infection has become a manageable chronic health condition, enabling people living with HIV to lead long and healthy lives.”
While HIV work has changed drastically over the past few decades, from HIV-specific health practitioners spending most of their time planning around patients’ end-of-life care, there is still work to be done in the community.
It is crucial to provide housing for people who are unable to live on the streets due to their poor health and make it easier for them to take their medication. Access to water and a schedule that is consistent are crucial for maintaining our health, particularly in the most vulnerable population. They would also help eliminate AIDS.
These basic needs will enable us to bypass structural inequalities as well as underlying social injustices once everyone has them. The economic crisis does not favor human rights. It is a long-standing global promise of ending AIDS and the HIV epidemic that we must address inequalities.
We can make it easier for HIV/AIDS sufferers to educate others and speak out against the stigmatization. One in three people is HIV-positive. We don’t say this to scare you in how prevalent it is, but to remind you that we can’t gloss over these statistics as numbers we simply hear on the news.
This is about us and the community we all belong to– humanity, and making strides towards HIV prevention.
The Real Heroes
If you’re interested in helping raise awareness of HIV/AIDS through monetary or time contribution, check out the awesome NGOs below.
The Global Fund
International Aids Society
Kaiser Family Foundation
Elton John AIDS Foundation
The Mercury Phoenix Trust
Would you be open to friendship, support, and love if a friend told you that they are HIV-positive? We believe the answer to this question is yes. Remember that you may easily be part of someone’s first exchange when discovering they have HIV or AIDS, and the way you react can be a defining moment for them.
HIV can be life-threatening, but not life-threatening. When taken care of, HIV can be managed as a chronic disease. You may be thinking, “Why should I get tested?” because of reasons x, y and z. But the real question is “Why shouldn’t I get tested?” Make it a part of your annual health routine.
There is nothing to lose and only education to gain. Make a difference on World AIDS Day by helping to raise awareness!
Donna is a Volonté contributor and freelancer who lives in San Francisco with her understanding husband and not-so-understanding teenage sons. Her work was published in The Journal of Sexology, and she is currently working on a book about love languages.