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World AIDS Day: Ending the HIV epidemic

Today is World AIDS Day.

World AIDS Day was founded in 1988 and is considered the first global health day.

We’ve come a long way since the Reagan administration failed to act on the crisis in the 1980s, leading to more than 700,000 people dying in the years since from HIV-related illnesses.

Thanks to science and research, it was announced last month or so that a woman in Argentina might have become only the second known person whose own immune system may have cured her of HIV.

More than 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are more than 35,000 new infections each year.

HIV, in 2019, was the ninth leading cause of death for people 25-34, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It was the 10th leading cause of death for people 35-44.

For some populations, taking what’s scientifically known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) medicine helps to prevent HIV in people who are most at risk. The medicine is considered to be highly effective for HIV prevention. The medicine can, in many cases, be free from out-of-pocket costs with or without insurance.

But many general practice or primary care doctors still know very little about PrEP, and stigma and fear surrounding HIV can lead to someone having a difficult time getting the medicine. Medical clinics focusing on health initiatives for people who identify as LGBTQ are an option if people have access to such facilities.

People aren’t just living with HIV, they are thriving — with many people living as what’s known as “undetectable=untransmitable” (or “U=U”), meaning they have reached and maintained an undetectable viral load through daily antiretroviral therapy and cannot transmit the virus to others.

Similar to cancer and COVID-19, HIV disproportionately impacts certain age groups and populations — most particularly racial and ethnic minorities, and people who identify as LGBTQ. Fear, suppression, lack of education, stigma, lack of insurance, lack of access to prevention/treatment are among the reasons these communities are at a greater risk.

It is worth noting that, in 2018, 21 percent of new HIV diagnoses were among young people 13-24 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Thanksgiving, I saw someone question why an ad for HIV treatment would air during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The information above is why having commercials and marketing efforts during large-scale events, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, can help lead to a better society for everybody.

Such efforts to advertise HIV treatment can help save lives and help to end stigmas.

There is no doubt that someone saw that commercial during the Thanksgiving Day parade and made a call. Or, maybe someone searched for information on HIV testing after seeing the commercial.

This would be similar to seeing an American Cancer Society commercial and then visiting cancer.org for information on testing and treatment.

There was a time in our society when cancer was stigmatized. People saw cancer as a death sentence and did not speak of it — similar to how some people still view HIV.

But through education and research, cancers have become widely understood — and there is generally no stigma attached to someone being diagnosed, at least compared to how society was just a few decades ago.

With any hope, efforts like Thursday’s ad during the Thanksgiving Day parade can help HIV follow a similar path of cancer, allowing society to destigmatize the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a wealth of information available to help people better understand HIV.

The CDC provides a section on stopping the stigma.

April 10 is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. The CDC provides resources for educators and schools.

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1. The theme for 2021 is “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice.

Other resources

Remembering Kaci

“You can’t buy love, but you can rescue it.”

Our beloved rescue mix Kaci died Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer last year. She was 11.

Ever the guardian of her family, Kaci was the gentlest giant who had a knack for keeping stuffed toys intact — though, later in life she would destroy the squeaker within minutes even as the toy remained fine — and loved cuddling on top of blankets.

Kaci rescued us with love in February 2010 from a Yukon, Pennsylvania, animal rescue organization. As a very young puppy, Kaci, originally named Ann, and a sibling were neglected by a previous owner.

She left those bad memories in the past when she became part of this family zoo.

While having no puppies of her own, Kaci had an incredible motherly instinct — always honing in on the emotions of the humans around her. And when any fellow furry family member had to go to the veterinarian, Kaci expressed concern, typically howling and scurrying around to find that particular animal when they returned.

She understood love, happiness and grief better than most humans do, which allowed her to also be a better caregiver than most people.

While her bark might have seemed off-putting to some, this was her way of expressing concern for those she loved.

And when she wasn’t keeping watch for every pizza delivery or FedEx driver, Kaci was an excellent teller of time — always knowing exactly when it was breakfast, dinner and snack time. Though, she couldn’t quite figure out the changing seasons and clock adjustments.

Never one to turn down food, Kaci enjoyed everything from blueberries to Wegmans butter cream icing. She ate better than many humans as her parents meal-prepped protein and vegetables each week to add to kibble.

While she tolerated spring and fall weather and downright hated even a slight bit of humidity, her love of snow was unmatched. She enjoyed intensely running in snow. Other than snow, Kaci enjoyed visits to Presque Isle, staying under the tent, away from the sun.

Though initially listed as a “pointer” mix, though no pointer ever seemed evident in her, Kaci grew to love her pointer family — first with Sidney and then with Anne and Macy.

In her waning months, as the aggressive form of cancer progressed, her spirits never diminished. While experiencing bad days among the good — sometimes, bad moments of a good day — her love for those around her never stopped. And Kaci still knew when it was feeding and snack time.

In lieu of squeaky toys and tasty treats, hug your furry little animals and remind them how much they mean to you.

Image by DAMILARE ODUNUYI from Pixabay

Pepsi Blue returns!

Get ready! Pepsi Blue is making a triumphant return!

The last time we saw Pepsi Blue, Usher had three of the top 25 songs of the year. Nickelback had the 17th best Billboard hits song. “Everybody Loves Raymond” was the top sitcom. “Shrek 2” was the highest-grossing movie.

What was the year?

2004.

Apparently, “passionate Pepsi Blue fans have been clamoring for the return of their beloved berry cola” for years, Pepsi said, according to the USA Today.

The company recently released Pepsi Mango, which is amazing.

Of course, I need a return of Crystal Pepsi. Preferably a zero sugar Crystal Pepsi!