December 1, 2017
December 1st is World AIDS Day. This is a day to remember those around the globe who are living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or have lost their lives to complications from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV does not discriminate against sexual orientation, race or gender. Currently, there are approximately 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV. It also doesn’t discriminate by age: a third of new HIV infections in the world are among those 15 to 24 years old, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
When AIDS was first diagnosed in United States, it was briefly called gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) by some. The U.S. government was slow to act and as a result many people died. Instead of waiting for the government to do more, a group of people in New York City created the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (or ACT UP, as it is more widely known) to advocate and lobby for those with HIV/AIDS. From this group came the Treatment Action Group (TAG), which successfully advocated for quicker development of new HIV treatments.
ACT UP is an important and inspiring example of advocacy making an impact. Today, ACT UP continues to advocate for those with HIV/AIDS around the world. In fact, this year marks their 30th anniversary! I didn’t know about ACT UP until two years ago, when I watched a documentary called How to Survive a Plague. After watching it, it became important to me to celebrate those in ACT UP for their actions and beliefs.
The fight to end the spread of HIV is still not over. Globally, one million people died from AIDS in 2016, and some still mistakenly associate HIV with a “gay lifestyle” because they do not know the range of behaviors that can transmit HIV regardless of your sexual orientation. However, with education, we can make strides in ending stigma and ignorance toward those with the virus.
This December 1st (and everyday), think about those who have lost their lives, but also think about those who have survived and those who have made great strides by advocating for a cure and treatment. There is hope that we can end AIDS.