World AIDS Day is held on December 1st of each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. The first-ever global health day, World AIDS Day began in 1988.
The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-free generation”. As a provider of services to the HIV/AIDS communities since the early 1980’s, PERSAD seeks to be a part of the solution to achieve an AIDS-free generation.
In this fight, the enemy has several weapons: ignorance, stigmatization, ignorance, lack of resources, unhealthy choices, and oh yes, did I mention ignorance? The Centers for Disease Control suggests that 75% of new infections are the result of an unprotected encounter with someone who is ignorant of their HIV+ status. Youth are still shortchanged by inadequate sexual health education, and the programs that do exist reveal that young people are ignorant about how the infection is spread and how to avoid it. Unfortunately the same is true for far too many adults.
As we continue in the fight against HIV, we must embrace the opportunities before us:
- Educate the public and provide accurate information. Teach skills that can reduce risks and decrease the likelihood of infection. Deliver evidence-based prevention interventions to high-risk groups.
- Encourage and provide testing as a routine healthcare practice to identify more individuals who do not yet know their status.
- Assist individuals who are HIV+ in receiving appropriate medical care. Help those who are struggling to stay in care, because of other competing issues or concerns, to get the help they need. Assist them in their efforts to stay in care (or return to care) and to adhere to essential treatment regimens.
- Reach out to caregivers and sexual partners of HIV+ people to assure that they have the support they need.
On this World AIDS Day, I encourage each of us to find our unique opportunity to help achieve an AIDS-free generation. Do you work with a group of young people, or have a social group that needs HIV information? Can you distribute HIV/AIDS fact-sheets and make educational materials available? Do you belong to a group that could be challenged to all get tested for HIV? Do you know someone with HIV that you can provide encouragement to and support for their care? We all have a part to play in the fight against HIV. Find your opportunity.