December 1 is observed every year as World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, as well as remembering those we've lost and those who are still living with HIV. Since 1988, this day has been a constant reminder of why we must continue to tell this story until the last story is told. Even with the amount of research and information on the Internet, HIV still continues to be stigmatized and many folks who are living with it fear having to reveal their status to friends and family.
However, that is just a small part of a larger picture of HIV in 2020.
Because of the efforts of activists and grassroots organizations like ACT UP, people with HIV can lead long and healthy lives. There are organizations dedicated to helping connect people with medical professionals who specialize in HIV treatment. Some of these organizations even cover the cost of HIV medication for people who are uninsured or whose medical insurance is limited. Groups like Visual AIDS used art as a way to bring awareness to HIV. Visual AIDS also has a database of work done by artists with HIV/AIDS called Artists+, and it has been known to provide pieces on loan to galleries and museums.
Perhaps one of the more significant things to come out of the HIV/AIDS story was the development of universal precautions and the Denver Principles, which are still being used today.
Not to mention the numerous vaccines we were able to produce due to the research done with the HIV virus. The development of the COVID-19 vaccine couldn't have been possible if it weren't for the HIV virus.
With COVID still circulating throughout the world, it's important to remember that we're all at risk. COVID-19 doesn't discriminate, and neither does HIV. It's eerie to see the rhetoric of the past coming back to haunt us in the present. People thought that HIV only infected homosexuals and was not a concern to those who were heterosexual. However, this was proven wrong when notable people who weren't gay announced that they were living with it. Again, with COVID, it's the same story: I'm not old. I'm healthy. Why do I have to stay home and wear a mask?
The answer to that is simple: you can still get seriously ill or get someone else sick.
While these things feel far away in the past to some, to others it seems as if it only happened yesterday. We still must continue to fight and advocate for those who are living with HIV. We must live for those who lost the battle with AIDS, and we still must continue to tell the story of HIV/AIDS until the very last one is told.
Let World AIDS Day be a lesson to you: Never underestimate what a few good people can do.