On World AIDS Day, reflecting on how far we’ve come – and what we still need to achieve
- Posted on November 29, 2023
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Friday, Dec. 1 marks the 35th World AIDS Day, marking a day of reflection for the many communities impacted by HIV and AIDS.
On World AIDS Day, we show our solidarity by wearing a red ribbon. Since the crisis started, nearly 100 million people around the world have been infected with HIV, and sadly, 45 million people have died from AIDS (the collection of symptoms that develops after living with HIV if untreated for some time). In many ways, World Aids Day is a cause for celebration as HIV is now treatable and is not a death sentence as is was back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Still, while some countries have effectively managed the public health situation through testing and effective treatment regimes, others still suffer with limited access to resources. This year, more than half a million people died of AIDS – mainly in Africa. Whilst the disease started in minority communities – gay, transgender, those with drug issues – it now impacts a far broader community, and HIV is on the rise within the heterosexual community more than any other.
In countries where Avanade operates, AIDS is often regarded as an issue of the past. It is treatable and it is preventable through the use of medication. But there is still so much stigma attached to being HIV positive. Nowadays, if you are HIV positive you are on medication that removes the virus from the body, and you cannot pass it to others. However, many countries still have criminal law to require disclosure of status to new partners (including 22 U.S. States) – much like having a criminal law to disclose you are diabetic. In those countries, we are now focused on removing this stigma through education, health care and messaging in the community.
If you are the same age or older than me – regardless of sexual orientation – you will remember how scared we were of AIDS in the ‘80s. How we saw emaciated, mainly gay men wither and die in front of us. How we wanted to protect our families from this disease we didn’t understand. I grew up sad but informed – yet saw friends, lovers, those I admired pass away, often abandoned by their families. I find myself as a gay man often looking to those older than me to shine a light on my aging years (!), yet many of them aren’t around. Sometimes I feel like a generational pioneer. It can feel lonely. The scale of loss in the gay community in the ‘80s and ‘90s was significant. Sometimes there wasn’t a week that went by when I wasn’t at a funeral. That has now passed, yet what is remembered still lives.
I am so proud to work for Avanade that creates a safe space for me to write about this deeply emotional topic. I am glad that we provide healthcare coverage (if not provided by the government) to ensure we can all be safe. With medical developments, I feel we are very close to a cure and a vaccine which is essential for resolving the ongoing AIDS crisis for good..
This year, the United Nations is focused on what communities can do. The world can end AIDS, with communities leading the way. Organizations of communities living with, at risk of, or affected by HIV are the frontline of progress in the HIV response. Communities connect people with person-centered public health services, build trust, innovate, monitor implementation of policies and services, and hold providers accountable.
Some things that you can do in honor of World AIDS Day:
- Wear a red ribbon or a red item of clothing to show your support and solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS around the world.
- If you are in a high-risk group, get tested for HIV and encourage others to do the same. Knowing your status is the first step to preventing and treating the disease.
- Donate to a local or global organization that works to fight HIV and AIDS. Your contribution can help provide essential services and resources to people who need them.
- Educate yourself and others about HIV and AIDS. Learn the facts, debunk the myths and share the information with your family, friends and community.