December 1, 2022
Since 1988, World AIDS Day (December 1st) has been recognized as a time to remember those lost to AIDS-related illnesses, support those currently living with HIV/AIDS and work to end the HIV epidemic. Want to know more and what you can do to commemorate World AIDS Day? Read on!
What’s Changed When It Comes to HIV/AIDS?
Let me back up a bit. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that harms the immune system. There are three stages of HIV; if not treated, HIV can progress to its final stage, also known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. However, this is often preventable; HIV can be controlled with the right care and treatment, whether it be Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) or antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Make no mistake, people with HIV who receive proper care and treatment can now live long, healthy lives, all while protecting a partner. How is this possible? Well, when consistently taking prescribed HIV medications, the amount of HIV in a person’s blood can decrease to such a point that it can no longer be detected. And people whose levels of HIV are undetectable can’t transmit HIV to their sexual partners. This can be summarized in a little phrase: “Undetectable=Untransmittable,” or more simply, “U=U.”
But while there have been advances in awareness, treatment and testing, the HIV epidemic is still a severe issue for certain populations. Unfortunately, some people don’t have the same access as others to proper information and resources.
Putting Ourselves to the Test
This year, the U.S. theme for World AIDS Day is “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV.” To truly end the HIV epidemic, there must be equal access to HIV testing, prevention, care and treatment.
Removing the barriers that prevent this is easier said than done. For instance, some groups of people have less access to services as a result of many factors, including stigma and discrimination.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy (2022-2025) has identified five populations who are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS:
With around 1.5 million new cases globally every year, removing these barriers and creating equitable access to HIV resources is more important than ever.
Why Is Getting Tested for HIV so Important?
The other part of the theme refers to getting tested for HIV, which lets you make healthy decisions for yourself and your partners. If you’re sexually active, it’s important that you get tested regularly. And remember, condoms are the only contraceptive that protects against both unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections like HIV.
The only way to truly know if you have HIV is to get tested!
What You Can Do
This year, reflect on the message of this year’s theme. Openly talk about HIV/AIDS and why we should be aware about it. Encourage those you know to get tested. Get yourself tested! Our Clinic Finder (back up and running soon) allows people to find health centers near them that provide HIV testing, often at a low (or no) cost.
Let’s do what we can to achieve equitable access to HIV care and treatment, make HIV testing a normal part of our health care and reduce stigma about HIV/AIDS.