Observing World AIDS Day
Observing World AIDS Day

Categories: Health

World AIDS Day LogoBy Miguel Gomez, Director, AIDS.gov

Today, December 1, we commemorate World AIDS Day. This has been a year of reflection as we marked the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS on June 5, 1981. AIDS is still here, and it affects all of us in the U.S. and around the world. AIDS has been, and continues to be, an important issue for the disability community, which has worked diligently to end stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and ensure that they have access to job skills training, employment services, housing and other supportive services.

This year has also been a year of hope; the result of key scientific and policy advances that now make it possible for us to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Now, it is time to look to the future.

Call for an AIDS-Free Generation

In her November 8th speech, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued an historic call for U.S. government leadership of worldwide efforts to achieve an “AIDS-free generation” by building on successful investments in HIV prevention, care, treatment and research.

Implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

One of those key “investments” has been the development of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). It has been more than a year since the release of the Strategy, which sets ambitious goals for addressing HIV/AIDS in this country. Since then, there have been community implementation dialogues across the nation and federal agencies have prepared and are now implementing operational plans that detail how they are pursuing the NHAS goals. We encourage you to review those plans, especially those of the Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration.

AIDS 2012 Comes to the United States

For the first time in more than 20 years, the International AIDS Conference returns to the U.S. in July 2012. More than 25,000 people will come to Washington, D.C. from all over the world to share the latest HIV research and engage in dialogue about ending the epidemic. This is an opportunity for the disability community to share lessons learned about the HIV/AIDS epidemic with colleagues from around the world. This week, the U.S. government launched a dedicated webpage for information about the conference.

Observing World AIDS Day

Please take a moment today to honor those lost to HIV/AIDS, celebrate how far we have come in 30 years and rededicate yourself to joining our efforts to achieve the vision of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and bring about an AIDS-free generation. If you have not decided how to observe the day, here are three simple ideas:

  1. Participate in Facing AIDS. For the fourth year in a row, people all over the United States are sharing their messages to end the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. You can download a sign and write a message about why you are “facing AIDS,” take a picture of yourself holding the sign and upload it to the Facing AIDS gallery.
  1. Encourage someone to get an HIV test – and get one yourself. Testing is one of the primary ways to end the spread of HIV, because people who know their HIV status can take measures to protect themselves and their partners. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 240,000 people in the U.S. who are living with HIV don’t know they are infected. Use the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Service Provider Locator to find an HIV testing location near you.
  1. Use new media. Follow our AIDS.gov blog – featuring posts from the CDC, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal partners – and tweets from AIDS.gov. Join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #WAD11 when sharing your thoughts about World AIDS Day on Twitter or Facebook.

We encourage you take time to reflect and take action on World AIDS Day.

As President Obama observed, realizing the vision of the NHAS “will require the commitment of governments at all levels, businesses, faith communities, philanthropy, the scientific and medical communities, educational institutions, people living with HIV and others.” This includes, of course, the disability community, which has been a solid ally in the response to HIV/AIDS for decades.

2 Responses to Observing World AIDS Day

  1. Fiermo says:

    Thank you for this very well-balanced article. As a rertied medical journalist who was working at the Sunday Times of Johannesburg at the very start of the AIDS-epidemic in South Africa, I have seen many colleagues, friends and contacts in the medical world, especially in the nursing profession, die of AIDS. Mbeki’s mishandling of this epidemic was only one aspect of the way this has been able to spread throughout Southern Africa, however. He contributed greatly to the problem because of his leadership in this regard, but I recall the press conferences I attended of the United Democratic Front before the ANC was unbanned, and where my colleagues and I increasingly started reasing the issue of HIV-AIDS with the comrades’. Often, we questioned why they opposed the very sound medical advice from the South African medical fraternity to promote condom use to prevent it from spreading. The standard answer from all of these leaders was always that it was a disease among white, homosexual men, and the recommended use of condoms as proclaimed by the white medical profession was a plot to reduce the black birth rates’. I still have some of these answers on tape recordings from those press conferences. My dismay only grew as this policy by the UDF and its political taskmaskers the ANC seemed to be set in concrete. And every step which has been taken by the ANC-leadership in regards to the HIV-AIDS epidemic, and now with the co-epidemic of drug-resistant Tuberculosis which now claims some 350,000 lives a year, all remained geared towards this denialist approach. There are several groups who are busy drawing up charges of crimes against humanity against specific members of the ANC in regards this terrible tragedy. Millions of people throughout southern Africa now are dying due to this, because the infections also could spread rapidly from South Africa after Mbeki basically threw open all the borders and effectively turned many neighbouring countries into new South African provinces. The last chapter about this horrible medical crisis won’t be written for many decades to come as countries are struggling to escape from the spiral of these two devastating co-epidemics and the socio-economic after-effects these are causing such as the feral young criminals who are roaming the country without any kind of parental supervision because their parents and guardians are all dead. Growing famine is only one side-effect now seen all across southern Africa. Yes, I have seen many people die of the combination of AIDS-TB. The latest friend I have had to mourn from afar was a fine woman I had seen at work as one of the best community-health nurses in the country, a dedicated, hard-working and well-educated woman. She died within two weeks of XDR-TB. She did NOT have AIDS. That’s the future staring all of Southern Africa in the face. It’s high time to stop debating the issue and start facing the fact that the entire sub-continent is being plunged into conditions worse than the Plague which decimated the European population so many centuries ago.

  2. While I was in grad school, I was surprised to learn that the diagnosis of HIV no longer definitely leads to AIDS or death. New drugs and treatment regimens have brought hope to so many living with this disability. I know it must take so much courage to live as a person with HIV or AIDS.

    It’s great to see the recognition and support the governentn gives to this population of disabled Americans.