Today is World AIDS Day. Each year, I spend part of the day remembering people I have known who left this world too soon because of that disease.
So: Frank, Mike, Tim, David, Todd, Chet, Jim, Steve, Brian, Rick, Stacy, Phil, Mark, Michael, Jerry, Walt, Charles, Thomas, Mike, Richard, Bob, Mikey, James, Lisa, Todd, Kerry, Glen, and Jack. Some of you I didn’t know for very long. One of you was a relative. One of you was one of my best friends in high school.
I miss you all. It was a privilege to know you.
This year’s World AIDS Day theme is about ending the stigma of being infected with HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS. In the early days, fear drove some of the stigma, as a lot of people were afraid that it could be contagious through casual contact. Fewer people are that misinformed, now, but there is still a lot of stigma around the disease. Many people aren’t aware that with modern treatment, for instance, that an HIV-positive person living in a first world country has the same life expectancy as an uninfected person, and that patients can be healthy for many decades after infection (it isn’t necessarily a cakewalk: taking a handful of pills every day for the rest of your life, dealing with side-effects of the drugs, and still always at risk because the immune system is compromised). But while fear was and remains a factor in the stigma, plain old bigotry has always been a bigger factor. With an added layer of blame for getting infected in an era when we supposedly know how to have safe sex and avoid infection.
That blame myth is an outgrowth of several different bits of misinformation. People who don’t realize that HIV-infected people can live for many decades without ill health, so that assume anyone who has it must of been infected very recently. Then there’s people who don’t realize that there is no such thing as completely risk free sex…
…and then there are the huge number of people who think that you can only get infected through “gay sex.” Some think that only queer men have the disease, so only people who have sex with queer (gay, bi, or pansexual) men are at risk. They’re unware that worldwide the vast majority of people living with the virus are heterosexual women. There are other people who believe that it is only transmissible through specific sex acts which they associate with gay people. Which is one of the reasons that in some places most new infections are happening to straight people. They assume they don’t have to take precautions.
Don’t be one of this misinformed people: Myths busted: 7 things people still don’t understand about HIV and AIDS.
And did you know the Apple is the largest corporate contributor to the Global Fund (dedicated to fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria): Tim Cook on his company’s biggest-ever World Aids Day event and why saving lives is not political.
And then there’s always hope: For This World AIDS Day, Hope is High.