Monday, Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, an important reminder that the fight against HIV is far from over.
This annual commemoration inspires us all to do more as individuals, communities and a nation. “Getting to Zero” is the theme of the event this year, signifying the need for access to treatment for all to reach the goal of zero new infections, zero HIV/AIDS discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.
After decades of efforts to increase awareness, education and research, the tide is finally turning, and eradicating HIV/AIDS seems possible. Globally, increased access to HIV care has resulted in a reduction of new infections from 3.1 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2010, and a 22 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths in the past five years.
The Obama administration finally has put the U.S. on a course to address the battle here at home. In 2010, the National AIDS Strategy was unveiled.
Unfortunately, according to a recent report, compared with high-income Western nations, the U.S. performs amazingly poorly in getting people with HIV diagnosed, into stable care, on treatment and to an undetectable viral load.
The CDC reports that approximately 20 percent of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. are still unaware of their infection. These people are not accessing the care and treatment they need to stay healthy and reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to their partners.
Another problem is retaining people in care.
Significant health disparities related to both race and age continue. African Americans are the least likely to be in ongoing care or to have their virus under control. Younger African Americans are least likely to stay in care or have their virus suppressed.
According to the report, HIV care and viral suppression improves with age, except those 65 and older.
It’s time for our community to do its part. People think they have to be infected to become involved. The Bay Area has an active HIV community that consists of infected and affected people doing great work.
Churches are finally getting the support they need and are joining in the fight.
If you are HIV-negative, you can still attend HIV events to educate yourself so that you can pass on information in your workplace, place of worship and most importantly, to your family.
Get involved in an HIV ministry; invite an HIV-positive person to come speak at your church. It’s time we all become responsible for each other.
Get tested, know your status. If it’s one day a year, make it World AIDS Day.
On Monday, Dec. 1, Oakland-area AIDS service organizations will be holding a community World AIDS Day event at Frank Ogawa Plaza from noon to 6 p.m. The event is free.
For more information, contact Jesse Brooks at (510) 575-8245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, Nov. 30, City of Refuge UCC presented Post News reporter Jesse Brooks’ first photography exhibit, “Breaking Chains.” In it, Brooks captured a visual history of his journey through the epidemic that has ravaged African-Americans, men and women across the Bay Area. The exhibit was sponsored by the AIDS Health Foundation and The Post News Group, and can be seen at 8400 Enterprise Way in Oakland.