By 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.