Every December first, we come together as a global community to mark World AIDS Day and renew our commitment to fighting HIV and supporting those living with it worldwide.
This year’s theme is “global solidarity, shared responsibility” — a fitting one given our current moment in time. Our work to eradicate and destigmatize HIV must remain a top priority, but we are also facing another public health issue we can’t ignore: COVID-19. We need to remedy both.
Right now, COVID-19 has ravaged millions globally and killed more than 250,000 here in the United States. Like HIV, it started as a mystery and remains filled with unknowns — bringing fear and misinformation as it spread.
These two viruses are unlike in so many ways, of course, but the lessons we can learn from them are crucial. That’s why World AIDS Day is important 32-years after it first began.
One such lesson: We are an interconnected people and it is nearly impossible for us to exist without touching the world around us. No one person’s health is exempt from their surroundings, which means it’s on all of us to address crises like these if we want to fix them.
To do our part, it’s critical to focus on what we can control in terms of our own health:
- Getting tested regularly for HIV (and COVID-19!)
- Use condoms as often as possible.
- Exploring prevention methods like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PeP (post-exposure prophylaxis) to see if they work for you.
- Building an honest, open relationship with a medical professional.
Personal ownership of one’s health is just the start. Now more than ever, we’re also reminded that our wellness is directly informed by who we are and how the world sees and treats us — and it’s only made worse by inequalities many face every single day.
HIV and COVID-19 both impact the most vulnerable among us and that’s no coincidence. Our world places societal, economic, and social barriers in people’s ways. That leaves many to fight the same fights but with seemingly insurmountable constraints that others do not seem to have.
It’s deeply important that we focus on our collective power to transform society and dismantle the roadblocks and obstacles far too often in others’ ways — like systemic racism, poverty, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and more.
Change is already happening before our eyes. HIV rates are trending down, prevention methods are working and treatments are becoming more widely accessible, while activists and advocates work tirelessly combatting systems of oppression that remain in the way of progress.
Ending HIV once and for all is possible. Remember, this World AIDS Day you can create change, so get into the fight for a better world. It’s never too late to make a difference.