I don’t remember when I first learned about HIV and AIDS, but I do remember being frightened, confused and having questions. It was the early 80’s and I was young, but knowing someone who was diagnosed with AIDS wasn’t uncommon.
Fear of contracting the virus was everywhere and along with it came stigma (shame and disgrace that results from prejudice associated with something regarded as socially unacceptable). Stigma around HIV includes certain words, beliefs, and actions that have a negative meaning for those at high risk for getting HIV or those already living with HIV.
HIV has been around for more than 30 years. HIV-related stigma continues to be a barrier that we must overcome to reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation in the United States.
So many people have been diagnosed. People from ALL walks of life. Too many people.
So much has happened over the past 30 years since the first reports of what became known as AIDS.
We’ve come a long way with treatments and survival rates, but unfortunately, HIV is not a thing of the past.HIV is not a thing of the past. Let's #StopHIVTogether. http://bit.ly/2ccLEJY @groovygreenlivi @talkHIV Click To Tweet
- More than a million people are living with HIV in the U.S.
- Approximately 45,000 Americans become infected with HIV every year.
- About 1 in 8 people living with HIV don’t know they have it.
Thankfully a positive diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. People can now live healthy fulfilling lives with the proper treatment.
While the overall infection rate has decreased in the US, there is a significant risk to those 50+ who are less likely to get tested and, as a result, are subject to higher death rates than those who are younger.
Unfortunately, the stigma still exists. It remains one of the underlying reasons for low testing rates within the 50+ age group.
Take a few minutes to watch Theresa’s story. She’s a mother, a grandmother and she’s living with HIV. Theresa is a perfect example that HIV does not discriminate.
What you can do to raise HIV awareness
Let’s Stop HIV Together (#StopHIVTogether) is a campaign working hard to raise HIV awareness and its impact on the lives of all Americans and fights stigma. The goal is to show that persons with the virus are real people—mothers, fathers, friends, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, partners, wives, husbands, and co-workers.
We all have a role to play in stopping HIV, and it starts with supporting people living with the virus and talking about it with our friends, families, and loved ones.
- Get the facts: Learn about HIV and AIDS, and take steps to protect yourself.
- Get tested: Test. It’s easy, free, fast, and confidential.
- Get Involved: Share your story, make a difference, support others. Every voice and every story is important.
HIV is not a thing of the past, but rather something we need to continue to talk about while advocating for those most affected.
Let’s stop HIV together. This September 18th is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. To help reduce stigma take the time to educate others about HIV and safe sex . Share your own personal stories. Use your voice, whether it be through social media, writing or facilitating discussions! It’s the only way things will change.
I have no doubt that together we can make a difference.
This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.