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.”