This post was originally published in December 2018 on World AIDS Day. A recent conversation I recently overheard gave rise to re-posting it! Originally published at https://jtwb768blog.wordpress.com.
Today is the day that, for the last 30 years folks around the world have taken time to reflect on the lives, known and unknown to them, and the impact HIV and AIDS have had on them.
I have participated in some manner every year for 30 years. I have been involved in this battle since the beginning of the epidemic. It was called GRID then – no snarky remarks about how old that makes me! The cause was unknown and there were some INSANE hypothesizes as to causation. For more info on GRID click here.
I became extremely involved in fighting the discrimination faced by individuals with HIV and AIDS when I went to an appointment with a friend of mine at the University of Iowa Hospital in 1989. The clinic he was seen in was literally three feet inside the back exit of the hospital. My friend was instructed not to enter the clinic from any entrance other than this exit. He was instructed to wear a mask at all times while inside the hospital. When we checked in we were told not to leave the clinic for any reason. I felt embarrassed even being there and I was not the one who had AIDS. Unlike other clinics throughout the hospital, there were no gentle touches while nurses and doctors examined my friend. The best part of the appointment was at the end when my friend spoke with a social worker who was not scared to touch him or hug him when we were leaving. However, she did accompany us directly to the exit we came in.
Yes, we have come a long way in relation to the treatment of HIV and AIDS with many living full, productive lives and fulfilling life expectancies. Infection with HIV is 99.6% preventable with PrEP. It was recently announced that an HIV vaccination was beginning human trials in the US.
Yet, with all the progress mentioned above, individuals living with HIV and AIDS face the stigma of decades of bad education and poor understanding of the virus and disease. It makes me sad when I see the parent of a child quickly grab their daughter or son because his/her uncle is about to pick the kid up. I weep inside when one of my husband gets the sniffles or a cold and goes into an almost recluse type of hiding because, as he explains, last time he had a cold his mother freaked out every time he sneezed because she was scared of catching AIDS from him. It amazes his mother beyond belief that he is poz and I remain negative – truly telling about the lack of understanding of the disease. It scares me to know that several of those closest to me who are HIV positive, do not disclose their status to partners because they believe they will never get laid if they disclose. The stigma oozes into every facet of a positive person’s life.
Eliminating the stigma and discrimination related to the virus and disease must be our next step. The stigma MUST go!
Today, as we observe our 30th World AIDS Day, please examine your own biases related to HIV and AIDS. Educate yourself about the disease.
If you need to learn more about PrEP and it’s use as an HIV transmission tool and you are in the Quad Cities, please reach out to The Project of The Quad Cities. If you live outside the QCA, shoot me a message and let me know where ya live and I shall assist you in locating a provider.
Please know your status.
Understand that Undetectable = Untransmittable.
Join me in
ELIMINATING THE STIGMA!!! #FSTIGMA