World AIDS Day 2013 and Beyond – What YOU Can Do Now

World AIDS DayWorld AIDS Day is December 1st

This year, The STD Project had the privilege of participating in multiple events to both commemorate those who lost their lives to AIDS as well as celebrate the leaps and bounds achieved in the fight to end HIV/AIDS. While I was delighted to take part in those events, I was simultaneously disappointed by the poor turn-out and the overall lackluster media attention World AIDS Day elicited.

During this somewhat tumultuous time of year, people are rushing about getting shopping done, decorating their homes, spending time with loved ones, and generally, getting dazzled by the twinkle of shiny things alongside commercialized versions of holiday music from years gone by. In a sense, it’s really no wonder an event commemorating the dead and working toward ending a disease received little attention.

It’s depressing.

And if you’re not directly impacted by HIV or AIDS, you’ve got lots and lots of other ostensibly more important things to do. I’m actually not going to fault those of you who did nothing or think you have done very little. You thought I was headed in that direction, didn’t you? Quite frankly, I’ve done very little myself…

Or, have I?

Sure, I spoke at an event, participated in a live chat, and I’m writing a post discussing all of it right now… But what am I really doing to help end the AIDS pandemic? Well, I’ll tell you, because my answer might surprise you, and I’m hoping *crosses fingers* it inspires you as well.

I’m doing little things and making changes daily – little things, which, in time, have a very large impact.

You can do these things too. In fact, you might already be doing some of them without knowing. Cheers! You’re an advocate!

How excited are you? You can continue shopping AND advocate for HIV/AIDS simultaneously!

Heck, I really don’t care if you ever attend a World AIDS Day event at all. If events are your kind of thing, then, by all means, don’t let this post deter you, but if they are not, here’s what you need to know to become a passive advocate like me.

The Good & The Bad

The Good:
  • As a result of global initiatives and programs, AIDS-related deaths have dropped by more than 25 percent between 2005 and 2011 worldwide.
  • There are now 700,000 fewer new HIV infections in the world annually than there were a decade ago.
  • In 25 low- and middle-income countries (most located in southern Africa), rates of HIV infection have dropped by 50 percent or more since 2001.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS-related deaths have decreased by one-third in the past six years and the number of people on HIV medication has increased by 59 percent in the last two years alone.
  • Recent studies have demonstrated that treatment of HIV/AIDS with antiretroviral (ARV) medication reduces transmission rates by 96 percent, underscoring that treatment is also prevention.
The Bad:
  • According to the most recent statistics from UNAIDS, there are still 2.5 million new HIV infections worldwide and 1.7 million deaths annually from this disease.
  • Globally, there are 34 million people living with HIV and half do not know their HIV status.
  • Nearly half of the people in need of antiretroviral treatment (6.8 million) do not have access to these life-saving medications, and as many as 50 percent of them will die within 24 months if they do not receive therapy.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry a disproportionate burden of disease, representing 69 percent of all people infected with the virus worldwide.

Awesome Small Steps = Big Impact

So, now you know where we stand in our progress toward a world without HIV/AIDS. What now? What are you already doing and how can you really make a difference?

It’s the little things that add up, right? Individually, it behooves us to care about HIV/AIDS in particular, because our actions today will affect generations tomorrow. And the beauty is, we don’t have to donate millions or develop the HIV vaccine to advocate for the cause. Even once the vaccine is developed, we will have to adhere to its administration. Ensuring adherence requires a specific mind-set and a general awareness and respect for sexual health. This is where your small actions factor in.

As an aside: Should you be living with an STD, this is also a great way to support others in similar circumstances without drawing attention to your specific infection. It has become acceptable to care about organizations dedicated to ending AIDS without it being an indicator of your status. So, use the HIV/AIDS campaign as your proxy.

Small things you can do all of the time:

  • Talk about sexual health with your loved ones (this encourages awareness, healthy discussion, and reduces fear)
  • Get tested before and after each new partner (this keeps you protected and also develops healthy habits)
  • Follow, like, pin, etc. an HIV/AIDS organization on your favorite social network (this promotes awareness)
  • Tell a friend you recently got tested and how painless the whole experience was (this encourages healthy habits and constructive conversations about sexual health)
  • Use protection consistently and correctly (this reduces transmission and develops healthy habits)
  • Invest in K-Y Jelly (not really; I just included that one for fun)
  • Use lot’s of lube (this reduces transmission)
  • Stop using terms to describe people with infections like, ‘dirty’, ‘damaged-goods’, ‘slut’, ‘whore’, ‘promiscuous’, ‘being punished’, etc., and when you hear them being used, let the speaker know you think there are more appropriate ways to describe someone and/or their actions without assumptions or harmful connotations (this decreases stigma and increases partner notification)
  • Volunteer or attend an event – if you’re that kind of person, of course (this inspires others)
  • Encourage and support local syringe-exchange programs (this is an evidence-based, proven intervention that decreases transmission rates)
  • Allow your children to participate in comprehensive sex-education (this provides accurate education and is proven to reduce risky behavior and lengthen time till first sexual experience)

Who knew you were such an advocate, you advocate, you!

Noteworthy HIV Links to Keep an Eye On

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Are you inspired? Are you already making small contributions which are adding up to great change? Are we missing a noteworthy organization? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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