Dear campus community:
You may know that COVID-19 is sometimes compared to the 1918 Spanish Flu, but did you know that AIDS is also considered a modern pandemic? It has taken the lives of 32.7 million people around the world since the pandemic began in the 1980s. Today, there is still no cure and no vaccine.
Did you know that there are approximately 38 million people around the world living with HIV/AIDS? Of that number, 1.8 million are children under 15 years old. In the United States, there are 1.2 million people who have HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 36,400 new HIV infections occurred in 2018.
This information is exactly why World AIDS Day is so important. This day is an opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, promote awareness, promote HIV prevention, and encourage people to get tested.
Do you know your status? No? Get tested. One out of seven people have HIV and do not know it. The earlier you test, the earlier you can start treatment. HIV is not the death sentence it used to be. With medication, good nutrition, and exercise, one can live a very long life. Sixty-five percent of people living with HIV are currently “undetectable,” which means their viral load is suppressed, thus reducing the risk of further spread.
HIV impacts people of color and transgender individuals. In particular, Black people account for 42% of new HIV infections, while Hispanic and Latino people accounted for 27% of new diagnoses. In the past six years, we have seen an increase in the number of transgender people diagnosed with HIV as well, and part of that may be better documentation of gender identity.
While HIV cases are higher with men who have sex with men, make no mistake about it: This is not a gay disease. It affects heterosexual people and it still affects children. Younger people are at higher risk as well. Many of the new cases reported are from people in their 20s and 30s.
HIV doesn’t care if you are deaf or hard of hearing, either. There are over 500 names listed in a website called Deaf Lost to AIDS, owned by Deaf Queer Resource Center (DQRC), based in San Francisco. That list is updated every year on December 1. DQRC relies on the Deaf community’s help in maintaining this list of names.
Sexual well-being means taking care of yourself. Get tested. Find out about preventive medications and pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP). Learn about safer sex. Use condoms.
Today, December 1, please wear red ribbons or red clothing to commemorate the day. Show your unity – most of us have known or know of people infected with HIV. Fight with them in eradicating one of the worst and longest-lasting pandemics in history.
Elizabeth A. Moore, Ph.D.
Interim Chief Diversity Officer
LGBTQA Resource Center