World AIDS Day is recognized each year on December 1st and the theme for 2012 is Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation. “Aids-Free” is ambitious, sure, but an epidemic like this one can’t be conquered with a meek response.
Oh, and let’s be clear that it is in fact an epidemic: with more than 50,000 new cases each year in the U.S., there are now an estimated 1.2 million Americans living with HIV. The kicker is 1 in 5 have no clue about their status, and are missing on life-prolonging treatment regimens that are most effective when started early.
As with so many things, the vulnerable bear the brunt of HIV infections. The young. The poor. Sexual and racial minorities. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are hardest hit, especially young MSM of color. African-Americans account for nearly half of those living with HIV in the U.S.
People in poor and marginalized communities are more likely to grapple with a number of health-related issues, even when an individual’s behavior and choices mirror those of someone in a lower-risk community. Poverty is at the core of it all: high incarceration rates (that disrupt communities) and trouble accessing health care are lingering issues. Dealing with life/survival issues - like stable housing and income- probably makes sexual health a lower priority. Discrimination, homophobia, and just plain neglect all play a part.
So what are we doing about it? For starters, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (link opens a PDF) has three primary goals: reduce the number of new infections; increase access to care for those living with HIV; and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The most important thing of all, though, is that YOU have a role to play! Write a letter. Encourage a friend. Get tested. Learn how you can get involved and spread the word to engage others in HIV awareness and prevention. You have a voice, and we need it more than ever.
You don’t have to be an expert. You just have to care enough to speak up.
For more on HIV/AIDS, visit ASHA’s STI Resource Center.
Find HIV testing sites and care services. Enter your zip code in the box below and then click on the magnifying glass to find more. (From AIDS.gov)
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