World AIDS Day
Today, people across the globe recommit themselves to a worldwide challenge — fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Today, we celebrate
the lives saved by prevention and treatment. Today, we remember the need to do more.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Twenty years of working to target populations in need and spread awareness, educate, and change behaviors. It will come to no one’s surprise that WAD will dominate any and all of today’s media coverage. And as individuals, communities, organizations, and corporations all share the news of today’s importance, the staggering number of those affected, and the need for prevention, we must ask ourselves — do our efforts matter?
According to the CDC, 33 million people around the world are living with HIV with nearly 7,500 new infections occurring each day. In the U.S. alone, there are 1.1 million people living with HIV, and approximately one in five persons living with HIV in the U.S. is unaware of his or her infection.
Communicating to audiences that truly need the information must to be of the utmost priority. This seems to be one of the greatest hurdles in prevention and treatment. Social stigmas and political obstacles stand in the way of critical HIV/AIDS education in countries across the globe, including the U.S. Earlier this year, the CDC released figures stating that though fewer people are dying from AIDS, HIV infections are on the rise, specifically for gay and bisexual men in the U.S. HIV also takes a disproportionate toll on people of color, severely impacting African Americans, followed by Hispanics/Latinos. However, how are these communities being targeted for education, prevention, and treatment? We have not seen progress in the black community as AIDS remains the leading cause of death among black women and second-leading cause of death in black men 35-44. In September, Ivette discussed the challenges the Hispanic community faces and the need for an education campaign. And Michael’s first blog shared that “less than 1 percent of the $699 million reported global prevention spending targets men who have sex with men.”
We’ve previously discussed these obstacles (see Ben’s blog around AIDS 2008). And, like my colleagues I agree that the answer is no, these communities are not targeted effectively. There are voices that remain unheard, communities that still suffer, and too many lives affected. We, as individuals and as nation, need to take a leadership position against social stigma, racism, heterosexism, and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS to truly make a difference and change lives. We need to communicate to these audiences in an authentic and impactful way. Do our efforts really matter? For me, the answer is yes, but we can do more. There are millions of people around the world that need prevention and treatment education. We simply need to touch them.