World AIDS Day 2013 Statement
Today is December 1st, 2013 and today as many of you know is World AIDS Day!
This year’s World AIDS Day finds many reasons for us to celebrate. New HIV infections have decreased 33% since 2001 with a 52% decrease amongst children and a decrease in 50% or more new cases amongst adults and adolescents in 26 countries around the world. Furthermore, we are getting closer and closer to ensuring that 15 million people living with HIV/AIDS attain their necessary treatments by 2015. And most importantly, AIDS related deaths have dropped 30% since their peak in 2005.
And while this is all great news, there is still much work to be done! In many regions in the world, there is still barely any data about the amount of HIV positive individuals or transmission. In some cases, the data is so skewed that it doesn’t even make sense! Many people aren’t getting tested because they often think, “Oh that could never happen to me!” or “That only happens to people who sleep around or the gays.”
We’ve moved far from the days in which HIV was known as Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease (or GRID); however, HIV related discrimination is still very prominent. People can still lose their jobs for being HIV positive and in some cases aren’t allowed to enter a country at all due to the HIV status. People living with HIV/AIDS are still being referred to as the “HIV positive patient” in our hospitals, regardless of their chief complaint. They are still harassed to find out how they got the virus and too often it is said that they “deserve it” for their behavior.
Regardless of who, what, how, why, and when, a person living with HIV/AIDS is still a person who deserves the rights and respect that should be given to every person on this earth. For at the end of the day, all that separates him or her from the rest of society is a virus that happens to be transmitted via blood or sexual contact.
I often find myself asking, why is this virus so different from the rest of those viruses and bacteria that are transmitted in similar ways? Is it because there is no cure yet? Is it because of the people it affected most first? Either way, the facts are there, that in this day in age, it is a tolerable disease, which if treated properly, can lead to a long and healthy life. And the only cure we really have is prevention.
And that is where we come in. On this day SCORAngels, I want you to wear your red ribbon proudly and I want you to walk through the streets, spreading this message: that HIV is here, it’s everywhere, and everyone should do their part to help out, not through stigmatizing and discriminating, but through showing care and compassion. Ignorance only causes harm but knowledge is power, and knowledge leads to a more tolerant and accepting society.
Throughout my 4 years in SCORA, I have and the opportunity to participate in 4 World AIDS Day events in my NMO in Lebanon. And each year it is remarkable how drastic the shift in public opinion is. Each year, we see less and less derogatory statements and each year the number of people who actively listen and thank us for what we are doing increases. The evidence is there people, we are making a difference, and even if you manage to change only one person’s opinion, that’s one more person on our side.
So SCORAngels, keep doing everything that you’re doing. Keep pushing hard to make changes in your communities. Keep fundraising for people living with HIV/AIDS. Keep handing out condoms on busy streets and in your colleges. Keep giving out free hugs and giving talks about safe sex practices. Keep posting pictures of you forming giant red ribbons and flashmobs. Keep telling people to test themselves as well as their sexual partners. Keep making a change and let’s make sure we “Get to Zero” sooner rather than later. And like I said, make sure to wear your red ribbons proudly and start the conversation, because if we don’t, no one else will.
With lots of SCORA love,
Director on Reproductive health and HIV/AIDS