Getting to zero. World AIDS Day 2014

26 years later we are still living with HIV

Since 1988, December 1st has been observed as World AIDS Day. On this day, communities and organizations make a concerted effort to bring awareness to the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. December 1st is also a day to remember all of those we have lost in the battle against HIV/AIDS and celebrate the advances made against the virus.

Millions of dollars have gone towards research for finding a cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Programs have been launched around the country to educate people on safe sex practices. Rapid HIV tests have been developed to make testing easier and more accurate. New drugs, such as Truvada PrEP, are either on the market or in development to help prevent HIV transmission. With all of these advances, the HIV landscape of 2014 looks quite different than it did 26 years ago. But the battle is not over. With new HIV infections and AIDS diagnoses still on the rise, we must continue to work towards an AIDS free generation. Here’s how you can make a difference.

Get tested

Make it a point to know your status and get tested at least once a year. If you’re negative, you can continue to learn ways to remain negative. If you’re positive, you can find resources and support. Don’t know where to get tested? Visit aids.gov/locator/ to find a testing site near you.

Educate yourself

Knowledge is one of the best weapons we have against HIV/AIDS, and we’ve learned a lot about HIV in the past 26 years. For example, did you know that there is less of a risk of HIV transmission with someone who is HIV positive with an undetectable viral load and on medication than someone who is recently diagnosed with HIV? Do you know that Truvada PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by 94% when taken consistently? Keep up-to-date on developments and news about HIV/AIDS and take control of your sex life by making informed decisions.

End stigma

There is still a lot of stigma around people who test positive for HIV. Describing positive people using words such as dirty, damaged, irresponsible, worthless, slutty, etc. diminishes the person as unequal to their HIV negative counterparts. Positive or negative, we are all living with HIV and are all HIV equal. It is important to think about the words we use when talking about HIV so that we can remove the stigma around it. Want to get involved with ending the stigma online? Join the #WeAreAllClean campaign to raise money for amfAR and Housing Works and end the use of the word “clean” to describe HIV negative people. You can also join Prince Harry in his #FeelNoShame campaign. In support of children in Lesotho who feel too ashamed to tell anyone they have HIV, this World AIDS Day is a day that no one feels any shame about their secrets.

Get involved

This year’s World AIDS Day theme is “Getting to Zero.” This means zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination. But we can only get to this goal if we all work together. There are many ways to get involved this World AIDS day. In Chicago, you can volunteer your time with local organizations such as TPAN, Center on Halsted, Howard Brown and DIFFA to name a few.

If you don’t have time to volunteer but love to shop, below is a list of retailers who are donating part of their proceeds to the fight against HIV/AIDS today.

Or just do the steps above and be the difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Share your experience and story with others and raise awareness with those around you. Together we can achieve an AIDS free generation.

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