HIV affects everyone and World AIDS Day is a time to reflect on that. That's why we gathered testimonies of people from around the world — from a social studies teacher in Brooklyn to activists in South Africa — to tell their own stories about how the virus touches all our lives. And more importantly, why we should never stop fighting to end HIV.
World AIDS Day to me is an opportunity to reflect on the lives that we have lost and celebrate those that are still living. It is an opportunity to educate communities about HIV, inclusive of the progress we’ve made when it comes to medications, in an effort to eradicate stigma, discrimination, and the inequitable treatment of those living with HIV. It is an opportunity for us to shine a light on the importance of taking control over our sexual health. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.” I encourage us all to start living.
Adrian Neil Jr. is a Capacity Building Specialist for AIDS United, developing and implementing trainings for organizations to better support the communities they serve.
On World AIDS day, I remember those who have transitioned due to this virus. I reflect on and am thankful for the progress made in medication and prevention. And I rededicate myself to do all I can to make a difference and be part of the solution that brings us closer to eliminating stigma and reaching zero new infections.
Anna E. Fowlkes is an advocate for people living and aging with HIV. She has also shared her unique understanding in many newspaper and magazine articles including photojournalist and blogger Katja Heinemann’s online magazine, The Graying of AIDS. She continues to promote her message and encouragement to: “Get Educated! Get Tested! Get Involved! Be part of the solution and not part of the problem."
World AIDS Day to me is a remembrance of those who’ve lost their lives to HIV and the dark times that us younger folks missed. It breaks my heart hearing the stories of the great losses that occurred in the 1980s and '90s, but those stories are important because they are our shared history. I find that sharing and keeping the memories alive bring us all together every December 1st and gives us a rejuvenated spirit for the constant battle against stigma and for our rights as people living with HIV.
Billy Willis is an HIV activist from North Carolina. Read his story here.
I was in high school in the 1990s and I remember the "AIDS scare." There was so much confusion and misunderstandings — and discrimination — surrounding the disease. The movie Philadelphia tore apart my heart and I cried when Magic Johnson announced his diagnosis. Thankfully, things are so much better now here in the U.S.A. Perhaps things are almost too good — as a high school Social Studies teacher I observe a naivete that grows deeper in my students. While I am relieved that they do not have to live through the hysteria and sadness of AIDS as I had at their age, it is a daunting task to explain what HIV or AIDS is and why they should care about it.
Blair McGinnis Pearlman lives in Brooklyn and teaches 10th grade Social Studies at the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies in Manhattan.
World AIDS Day is a day to celebrate those who take the courage on a daily bases to live and not succumb to stigma. A day to celebrate the doctors and nurses, counselors and caseworkers, who decided every morning to get up and make a difference. World AIDS Day is a day of education and unity. Personally this day is a day that I can be grateful for the decision to have the courage to stand in my own truth, and that power affords me to share that journey with someone in need. World AIDS Day isn’t a day of tears, regrets, or lost hope, because on this day you can go to the Internet and read millions of stories of triumph and not connect because of shame and defeat.
World AIDS Day is when the public turns its attention to the HIV [and] AIDS crisis for just a moment, and those of us who work in the field have an opportunity to educate them. Instead of the same recycled rhetoric year after year, we can bring a life changing message that frees people with HIV from the fear and shame of transmission. It is revolutionary that a person living with HIV who is on treatment and has an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV through sex. But most people still don't know. There will be an overwhelming number of statements, news stories, and events in the coming days, and I hope that those in the field and media will make it a top priority to reach the millions of people with HIV worldwide and the general public who don't yet know the game changing news.
Bruce is the executive director of Prevention Access Campaign's Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U), a growing international movement to share the revolutionary but largely unknown fact that people living with HIV on treatment with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to sexual partners. In 2012, nine years after his diagnosis, Bruce learned U=U. After recognizing that millions of people with HIV and the public were not being informed about this groundbreaking science, he joined with activists and researchers to ensure the science reaches the people it was intended to benefit. U=U is based on the principle that all people living with HIV have a right to accurate and meaningful information about their social, sexual, and reproductive health based on science not stigma.
Bruce has worked in philanthropy and social change for over twenty five years developing cause-related initiatives for high profile people and brands. He received his Ed.M from Harvard Graduate of School of Education and his JD from Harvard Law School.
Because I have worked at Pride Media, and have for a few decades now, World AIDS Day is a trigger to get to work. Whether we have advertisers that have bought sponsorships, or whether we are creating custom content to honor the day, it has mostly been a professional relationship for me.
Then when the actual day arrives and I start scanning AP photos and other sources for images of the day, I see that in many places around the world, especially the Asian countries, near and far, the day is held in high reverence. There are lovely ceremonies, moving and somber, and there are large gatherings, all to commemorate the day and to remind people that AIDS is still very much a reality.
Suddenly it’s not such a professional relationship for me.
I lived through the whole arc of AIDS thus far, from my reckless youth in New York in the late-'70s — where I began to lose friends and lovers very quickly. I recall moments that stick out to me:
The lover whom I had just broken up in with in 1980 explaining to me what thrush was and what it might mean.
In 1986, my then-boyfriend told me he tested positive for the HIV virus. He recommended I get a test.
My father — who is also gay — and I tested the same week. We both tested negative, which was more than miraculous. Later my father did the genetic testing and he believed us both to be homozygous delta-32. My father had been as wildly sexually active as I had in the ’70s. It was possibly the only reason we both tested negative.
In 1995, after years of celibacy, binging, guilt, and frustration, I met my now husband. He was HIV-positive when we met and on AZT. Having a positive partner was something I decided I would not go out of my way to avoid. It made no sense to me. But when he decided he could not take the toxicity of AZT anymore and just stopped taking it, I was floored. He quickly got very sick. I was insane with worry. We had just passed a point of bonding as a couple from which I did not want to retreat.
Then the cocktail happened. Just. In. Time. For us anyway. For many more, it was too late.
That was 23 years ago. We have been married now for four years. Arthritis takes up more of our medical attention than HIV. I have been on PrEP for a few years. I may or may not be homozygous delta-32, but why take a chance?
We have been very lucky, many were not. When I try to explain to young people what the ‘80s were like, I feel like an old man telling kids about WWII. I see their eyes glaze over. But there are all my dead lovers, friends, men I sponsored in recovery, all gone. So on World AIDS Day I will remember them.
It’s important to never forget the reasons why we as journalists do what we do. History shapes our current mindset, and it sharpens productivity for the future. World AIDS Day is an incredible day of remembrance. Thousands of our brothers and sisters died too soon, before modern medicines made it possible to suppress the virus to such levels that HIV-positive people become undetectable — therefore making it impossible to transmit the virus to others. Today we have PrEP, a once-a-day preventative strategy that when taken as prescribed can make it virtually impossible to contract HIV. These drugs might have sounded like science fiction in the 1980s and ’90s, during a time when people were dying by the hundreds each month. Let us never forget the uphill battle we, the people, fought to even gain such medical breakthroughs. That is a testament to the American voice and our democracy. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We stand on the shoulders of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, and activists who reminded us that through community we can demand justice — and win. We have a long way to go, but we must never forget the power of our voices, especially now that budget cuts threaten access to affordable healthcare.
David Artavia is the managing editor of Plus and The Advocate magazines.
Two indelible memories come to mind on World AIDS Day.
The first occurred in the fall of 1980 when I was a freshman at Hampden Sydney College, a small all-male college here in Virginia. On the first day in the dorm, I spotted a cute guy in the stairwell. We cruised each other with our fledgling gaydar, and became roommates within the week. Shortly after, we started having sex. One night after sex, we laid in bed and discussed coming out. We were terrified of the repercussions, but decided this was the right time to do it. Then, as if on cue, a story on the nightly news came on about a mysterious illness killing men in San Francisco. They called it "The Gay Cancer.” We never mentioned coming out again and for me it would be more than a decade before I finally had the courage to come out.
Years later, on December 1, 2009 during Obama’s first year in office, a large AIDS awareness ribbon was displayed on The White House. I was watching MSNBC and Chuck Todd commented on the live shot. He bemoaned “the huge red Christmas bow” and complained about it being "too early for Christmas decorations.” He corrected his statement after the break. This display of ignorance is the precise reason that we still need events like World AIDS Day to commemorate everyone that we have lost and to continue promoting awareness.
David Shannon is Chef & Sole Proprietor at L’Opossum in Richmond, Virginia.
To me, World AIDS Day is a symbol of those who died before us, those who fought for us to be where we are today, and of the caregivers who gave themselves to the cause when so many others refused. It is a symbol of empowerment, for those of us who live our lives as HIV-positive people openly, but also for those who do not have that same opportunity. World AIDS Day shows us that we are strong, we are loved, and we are supported. Finally, it is a call to action. A call to fight the stigma that still surrounds HIV today, demand better legislation and access to care, and work together to eradicate the virus once and for all.
I’ve known multiple people with HIV in my lifetime. Even in my rural upbringing in Vermont. That’s just how widespread the virus reaches, but luckily these days people with access to health care can live no differently than the rest of us. It's no longer a death sentence and while some days are worse for them health wise than the rest of us, they adapt themselves immensely to do the unthinkable; live in spite of the hand they’ve been dealt. With PrEP and condoms we can do all we want to prevent HIV outbreaks, but we have to remember to treat those of us who are affected with the same humility that everyone else is granted. In order to do so each of us must be willing to be open and talk about HIV, so as to not only prevent it but also to better explain that it’s no longer a horrible disease but simply a small rewrite to one’s genetic code if taken care of properly.
Ethan Remillard is trans, a sexual health advocate, and a musician. He lives in Chicago. Read his story here.
World AIDS Day is an important reminder that the epidemic never left certain communities, one of them being my own. As a Black Queer man, I recognize the importance of the shoulders I stand on that allowed me to be alive today, living and thriving with the virus. Even more, it serves as a day of unity, sharing, and learning, because if HIV harms one of us, it harms all of us. HIV is truly a civil rights issue, a social justice issue, and will remain one until the day we can stop new transmissions.
George M. Johnson is a Black Queer journalist & activist located in the NY area. He has written for Essence, Teen Vogue, VICE, and over 30 national publications. His debut YA novel All Boys Aren't Blue will be released Winter 2020 through FSG.
World AIDS Day is an observation that highlights the journey of HIV. The world has seen the full gamut of what the virus has looked like — from the times it ravaged communities from the 1980s to the biomedical advances of the 1990s & 2000s. Today, individuals living with HIV can live long, healthy lives, have children, and truly experience life beyond their diagnosis. World AIDS Day is a time set aside to remember those who went before us, those who fought hard, and often unknowingly, to help build the world we know today. And with that, this day is one to acknowledge the future and the advances to come. World AIDS Day helps us all, no matter our status, to remember, reflect, and celebrate.
Life is depressingly unfair. That’s what I thought when I got my HIV diagnosis in 1993, and that’s what I think now, 25 years later. While the laws in my country don’t force me to announce my HIV status to sex partners, I know that a lot of people in this world are just a revengeful ex away from prison. While I take pride in my undetectable viral load and put it on Grindr in order to seem more fuckable, I know that millions will never know what having an undetectable viral load is like. World AIDS Day is a reminder that although life is indeed depressingly unfair, it doesn't need to be. I can support people who fight the justice systems in their country, and I can support initiatives that provide basic healthcare for people living with HIV anywhere.
Gerrit Jan Wielinga lives in Amsterdam. He’s an author, an HIV activist and works for a national Dutch LGBT organization on male health. He’s also a regular contributor to the Dutch HIV magazine hello gorgeous.
On this World AIDS Day, I think about how HIV has shaped the life experiences of at least three generations of gay men. While the prevalence of the disease is most noted among those gay men born in the first half of the 1960s, no generation has been spared. For over two decades, I have understood HIV and the many other health disparities faced by gay men as being fueled by the social conditions we experience, and as a result of the psychosocial burdens we carry. These burdens include loneliness, stigma, homophobia, and otherness. And while socio-political conditions have improved slightly in the last decade, coming out and affirming one’s life as a gay man is still a challenge for most of us. For gay men of color, those who are HIV-positive, older men, or those who are economically disadvantaged, these socially-produced burdens are exponentially worse leading to even more profound deterioration in health. This is why I’ve come to know that discrimination and homophobia fuel the HIV epidemic, which is as much a product of society as that of a viral agent. So as we come to World AIDS Day in 2018, I once again call for us to integrate our biomedical and behavioral efforts with intelligent polices and laws that protect the rights and lives of sexual, gender, racial, and ethnic minorities in order to effectively bring an end to this epidemic. Without a shift in social conditions, AIDS will go on.
Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH is Dean and Director of the Center for Health, Identity Behavior & Prevention Studies (CHIBPS), School of Public Health, Rutgers University. His book Out in Time: From Stonewall to Queer, How Gay Men Came of Age Across the Generations will be published by Oxford University Press in 2019.
When I came to the United States 16 years ago, the stigma of AIDS was intense, both here and in my home country of Japan. I have been so pleased to see that stigma in the United States lift a little, because of better education efforts and because of medical advances like PrEP. I am looking forward to this new attitude echoing around the globe, to countries where it is still shameful and even dangerous to have this terrible disease.
Hiroki Otsuka is a manga cartoonist who has published for more than 25 years in Japan and the United States. He also produces fine art, and his work is currently showing at galleries in New York, Berlin, Provincetown and Palm Springs. You can see his comics and paintings here.
Living in Durban, on the east coast of South Africa in a province with some of the highest rates of HIV globally, I’ve always been super conscious of the importance of education, of commemoration, and of re-engagement. World AIDS Day remains important for our LGBTIQ+ community, and society as a whole, because for all the best intentions, for all the great campaigns, people get lazy, people forget about important facts relating to HIV and AIDS, and many chose to ignore the ever-present dangers they pose.
Today PrEP has ushered in a whole new era of recklessness and ignorance of other STIs that can be transmitted in the absence of safe sex practice. World AIDS Day for us here remains an important milestone to focus awareness, to keep the fight alive, and to strive harder to change mindsets and positively influence sexual behaviors for the better.
The Durban Gay & Lesbian Film Festival that I run has, since 2011, ensured that LGBTIQ+ stories are shared that include messages of hope, of education and of realization, that HIV remains a huge issue for our community globally and that wishing it away simply isn’t going to help.
Jason Fiddler is the festival director of the Durban Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, sits on the board of the KwaZulu-Natal Gay & Lesbian Tourism Association, to date the only LGBT+ tourism body of its kind in Africa, and has been a life-long gay activist, working with the broader LGBTIQ+ community.
World AIDS Day means bringing visibility to a crisis. It's an opportunity to educate and empower everyone to eradicate the virus and end all stigma associated with the manageable illness HIV is today.
Joe Valentino is an HIV activist and the publisher of Plus and The Advocate magazines.
World AIDS day has meant a lot to me for many years. I have been living with HIV for over eight years. I have met many other people through the years that are still living with HIV and many who have since passed. World AIDS day is a special day set aside to celebrate our late friends who have lost their battle with HIV.
I feel it is my responsibility as someone living with HIV to educate the community where I live. World AIDS day is a great way to invite the community out to celebrate and remember why we are still fighting and that we are very thankful for those who fought before us.
I plan on celebrating world AIDS day bigger and better every year.
Kari Steffen is a mom and HIV activist.
World AIDS Day gives me hope. It’s a day when we all stop for a moment and look at how far we’ve come since the early 1980s when the pandemic spread like wildfire robbing so many people around the world of their lives too soon. It’s a day when we can look forward and celebrate the achievements in science and medicine and know that being HIV positive is no longer a death sentence and that the progression to “AIDS” is unlikely if you are on anti-retroviral medication and maintain the disciplined routine in taking your meds and seeing and communicating with your doctor. Thanks to research, time, energy and the dedication of doctors and scientists around the world, living undetectable really does mean you are untransmittable. But sadly, this isn’t the case for everyone. There are many people around the world who don’t have access to the vital medications that really can stop the spread of the HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day also gives us a moment to pause and contemplate “what can I do to help”? It’s also a day when we can reflect and take time to celebrate and think of those we have lost and to remember them as the bright, shining, beautiful people they were. #whatisrememberedlives #uequalsu #sciencenotstigma
Karl Schmid is a TV reporter based in Los Angeles. Read his story here.
World AIDS Day always seems like a very sad day. If I’m going to be completely honest it also feels like a day where not much planning or thought goes into it. I know it’s supposed to be a day of remembrance but the folks I know who lost their lives due to AIDS complications would rather I spend more time celebrating and supporting those who are living with HIV or AIDS. Notice I said HIV or AIDS? I do this because it’s important for folks to understand that there is a difference. So, for me the day is about remembering my family member and friends who have passed by spending time being of service to those who are here. As someone living with HIV, very well I might add, I’d rather be celebrated while I’m here so I’m able to appreciate it. Give folks their roses while they can actually smell them. Love and support them while they are here.
Kengi Carr is a photographer and writer. Read his story here.
Today I literally lost another relative to this epidemic, it breaks my heart not only for his suffering but for my other relatives infected with this disease who through their regular visits, watched him fade away. I know in their minds they were probably thinking soon it will be me. So today I stand up for them, I advocate for them so that they one day I can think instead that won’t happen to me, not now and not ever.
Dr. Kopano Boineelo Mmalane is from Bobonong, Botswana and works at Gantsi primary hospital. She is a passionate advocate for women and children, LGBT folks, and people living with HIV in Botswana and globally.
This will be my first World AIDS Day since publicly revealing six months that I am HIV positive. I was diagnosed about a decade ago. World AIDS Day reminds me that I no longer live in the shadows. I no longer let fear dictate my truth. Visibility is power.
Marc Malkin is Variety’s Senior Events & Lifestyle Editor. He and his husband Fabian Quezada-Malkin recently appeared on the cover of Plus magazine for a story about their decisions to come out as HIV positive.
I've lit votive candles and called out the names of the dead until I had no more tears to shed. The friends I lost would insist I get on the with business of living. I may be a long-term survivor of 35 years, but I'm not a museum piece to be studied or admired. I'm a living, breathing man who loves my husband, chocolate brownies, and this thrilling life I have been given. Just not necessarily in that order.
Mark S. King is the creator of the online magazine My Fabulous Disease. He asks that you watch Sing Your Song: PLHIV Networks Change Lives below. It follows a young man in Mississippi, who finds strength, purpose and social support through his involvement with the Mississippi Positive Network, comprised of other Mississippians living with HIV.
I was nearly 30 — over a decade into the AIDS era — when I came into closer and more critical contact with the HIV virus, by which I mean I met a man who was famously positive and I moved to Paris to be with him.
I spent the 80s and 90s living in small college towns in monogamous relationships, and we knew very few people who came forward about their seroconversion status. Usually my boyfriend and I at the time learned that someone had AIDS after the fact — when the young man had already gone to the hospital for the last time.
In these communities there was very little activism, mostly discreet personal advocacy and well-meaning support groups. Then Patrick and I broke up. I began to look for sex, but of the very vanilla variety, usually nothing that would get me infected. Which didn’t stop me from freaking out every time I developed a blister inside my cheek or a bruise (most likely caused by over-exercise and a fanatical eating regimen) began to bloom on my shin or thigh.
After that relationship, and dodging that bullet, I joined the Peace Corps, and it was during that period that I began reading the journalistic and creative works of gay men like Edmund White, who came out as positive very early into the crisis. I was surprised in 1994, having heard a lot about this status of his, to learn that he was still alive — and I wrote him a fan letter.
Moving to Paris to live with Ed was the beginning of my up-close experience of gay men who were varying stages of the infection and symptomatic development. World AIDS Day means to me, simply: by living in small towns that didn’t talk about the virus but demonized anyone rumored to be gay, much less inflected, I’d been deprived of an education, and an opportunity to be further integrated into the gay community, where I could offer support and whenever necessary accept it. That is the thing I understand about the trajectory, first scythe-like in its fall then starting to retreat with the cocktail, of HIV. It made us closer. Or at least made me feel closer to other gay men. I wonder how many people I might have helped if I’d had a more activist background to confront the crisis earlier on. But that was unheard in the small-minded fundamentalist town where I grew up. AIDS made me more atheistic as well as empathetic.
Michael Carroll is the author Little Reef.
World AIDS Day is a time to honor the lives and stories of those we've lost, and to challenge the stigma that faces those currently living with HIV and AIDS. It also serves as a reminder that despite advances we've made fighting the virus, like PrEP, we can't stop our search for a cure to end AIDS once and for all, in the U.S. and around the world.
For me World AIDS Day is an opportunity to remind policy makers, politicians and community leaders that the battle rages on and that more needs to be done. It gives us a platform to get the message out about advancements like PrEP, rapid testing and U=U. It is also a chance to take stock, remember those who we have lost and to celebrate those living with HIV.
Pádraig Rice is the Coordinator of the Cork Gay Project – a charity working with and for gay, bi, queer and trans men in Cork Ireland. A graduate of the University of Oxford and University College Cork. Pádraig previously worked as a parliamentary assistant to an Irish Senator. He has also worked in Uganda with the aid organization Trócaire and in Dublin with Carr Communication. Originally from a village called Camp (ironically some might think) Pádraig loves to run and eat out with his wonderful partner Aaron.
During the struggle against apartheid in South Africa we often chanted a slogan — Mobilize, don't mourn! — to console ourselves at funerals of people killed by the government and to give us strength to carry on.
Unfortunately, we could not shelve that slogan when democracy arrived in 1994 as it coincided with the rapid spread of HIV. Nelson Mandela's government did very little to offer treatment, although they did adopt the Red Ribbon campaign to educate the populace. Mandela's successor Thabo Mbeki became world renowned for his AIDS skepticism and during his terms in office the government offered "cures" such as Virodene (an industrial solvent) and potatoes and garlic.
It was only due to the efforts of organizations such as the Treatment Action Campaign that citizens pushed the courts to force the government to provide treatment. Until then, only the wealthy in South Africa had an opportunity to live out their lives with AIDS. There are far too few philanthropic billionaires and far too many inept governments around the world to allow poor sick people an opportunity to live. I think the slogan is still required today.
Rehana Rossouw is a South African based journalist and the author of New Times and What Will People Say?
World AIDS Day is an opportunity to reflect on the continued need for AIDS activism and advocacy. AIDS in 2018 shines a light on inequality and the impact it has on one’s access to healthcare, services, and support. World AIDS Day is a day to root out stigma and to bring awareness to the very real ways that living with HIV has been criminalized in the US and around the world. World AIDS Day reminds us that HIV and AIDS is not a thing of the past, but requires us to look holistically and intersectionally at the issue. AIDS can never be eradicated as long as the social, economic, and political drivers of the epidemic remain intact. World AIDS Day is a day to honor AIDS activists from the past and today and to recognize the people living with HIV and AIDS, those we know and those we don’t, and to commit to being in solidarity with them today and every day.
I’m proud to work at Third Wave Fund where we center these activists from communities most impacted by HIV and AIDS, yet who remain under-resourced for their social justice efforts in the United States. We fund movement-building work that is led by and for young women, queer, trans people of color.
So many of us talk about HIV every day, but World AIDS Day is an opportunity to broaden who we have those conversations with to break down stigma. It’s so important to get the messages out there that HIV treatment works, U=U, and that HIV is a diagnosis — it doesn’t define you.
Sarah Hashmall is the Communications Manager for AIDS United.
From the beginning of the epidemic, it didn’t take very long for the concerns that my friends and I had for people we love to surface and for us to see what people were facing. So many people around me were affected directly. For all those who died and particularly those who I was present for, the impact was and continues to be everlasting.
In 1995, when I became a volunteer for the first-ever HIV/AIDS Hotline at GMHC, it changed my life. I learned how I could help in a time when an AIDS diagnosis was considered a death sentence.
Susan Rowley is the Helpline & Client Care supervisor for GMHC.
On the first World AIDS Day thirty years ago, I had already been living with the HIV for five years. I was a tad cynical. I thought it was quaint that we’d set aside one day to think about AIDS. HIV was all I could think about.
In 1986, my doctor told me I had less than two years to live. Surviving until the end if 1988 seemed like a small victory, even if death was imminent.
But here we are in 2018, not dead and aging with HIV. I’ve spent much of this year traveling around the country talking with other long-term survivors. They never imagined aging, and they feel forgotten in this new era of HIV. In fact, most people living with HIV in the US are over age 50. By 2020 it will increase to 70 percent.
What World AIDS Day means to me now is less about looking back but looking forward. Let’s Kick ASS is launching a grassroots advocacy campaign to Make the Majority A Priority at HIVaging.com. It’s a call-to-action to focus on healthy aging with HIV and a better quality-of-life.
I’m also looking forward to a short documentary NBC’s Today Show has produced about my survival and aging. They are releasing it on World AIDS Day.
As a proud ally of the LGBT community, it is our job to remind our brothers and sisters out there that HIV / AIDS does not discriminate against the color of your skin, or where you come from or even how much money you have. Therefore, events like 'World AIDS day' are so important to remind everyone, both young and old, that millions of bright, intelligent and loving people have lost their lives to this infection. As such, we are proud to play our own little part in minimizing any future transmissions of this virus to help our proud and resilient community for generations to come.
Tim Browning is the founder of Celebrate Condoms. Their rainbow condoms are FREE (minus shipping and handling) for World AIDS Day.
World AIDS Day is a day to reflect on how far we have come since 1981… and how far we still have to go. It is a day for us to celebrate progress and to dig in our heels, committing each year to work even harder than the last to achieve our mission: End AIDS.
Tracy Evans is the director of AIDS/LifeCycle.
What World AIDS day used to and what it means to me now is totally different. Before I used to think it was a time to remember those who have passed on with the visuals of folks looking pale, ashey color, skin and bones lined up against the wall of the hospital where I used to work as teenager wrapped up in white sheets on gurneys prepared to die. I remember how cold, scary and eerie it felt. Now as a Black Transman who is openly HIV-positive and Undetectable World AIDS day is a time I embrace those who are living. Knowing World AIDS day also stands for Life. Not only honoring those who are my mentors such as Cecilia Chung, Justin Goforth and Perry Carson, but as a celebration of how far I have come in my journey of being HIV positive. Echoes of my Aunt Valerie Spencer telling me I have been elevated in becoming the voice for trans men who are HIV positive. Memories of being embraced by my brothers and sisters from Tanzania and Uganda at the World AIDS Conference. Working and standing tall with folks who truly are fighting to end HIV. Even though HIV doesn't mean a death sentence anymore it still means we have work to do. I see the difference throughout the years of people coming together to change the different stigmas that comes along with HIV, including making sure everyone has access to treatment. People are living with healthier and longer with HIV it is no longer a pipe dream it is a reality with proper treatment.
World AIDS Day is important to me for a couple of reasons. Not only do I think about our great strides, in outreach, awareness, prevention, and global consciousness, but I also think of those I've lost, too soon. I always take a moment to smile at the thought of them and it makes me aware that they've got my back, just as they did when they were here.
Brian Keith Jackson is an art and culture writer and prize-winning author of the novels: The View From Here, Walking Through Mirrors, and The Queen of Harlem. He's currently at work on his next novel, I.C.U. Read his story here.
World AIDS Day is a time for reflection, remembrance of those we have a lost, and recommitment to the battle to defeat AIDS and HIV-related stigma. This fight, as the day reminds us, is a global one. Every person on this earth has been impacted by the epidemic, and it is our collective responsibility to work toward an AIDS-free generation. This may seem like a daunting task for the average individual. But by even giving a small donation at WorldAIDSDay.org or any other AIDS charity, you can help reach that goal. I also recommend watching the new film, BPM, about members of ACT UP in 1990s Paris, for an inspirational primer of how motivated people working together can change the world.
Daniel Reynolds is an editor at The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter.
World AIDS Day to me means to never forget those who fought and those who lost their lives in the beginning of this pandemic and for me as an advocate to keep spreading awareness until I can't speak anymore.
Davina Conner is an HIV activist from Denver, Colorado. She was diagnosed with HIV 21 years ago and has a daughter who was born HIV negative in 2001. She contracted HIV from her partner of 10 years. Davina started advocating because of the stigma that many go through being diagnosed with HIV and is determined to work hard for women of color, trans women and all women with HIV. Davina’s podcast Pozitively Dee Discussion has been running for 4 years and she uses her show as a platform to educate individuals who are HIV-positive and HIV-negative.
Earlier this year, a colleague emailed me and asked if I could visit a homeless trans youth named Rayne, who was in the hospital with AIDS related illnesses. The morning I was to see Rayne, I had a family emergency and moved my visit to the following morning. That morning never came. She died hours later before she turned 30.
In the early years, World AIDS Day weighed heavy. So much loss. So much darkness. So much pain and hurt. By 1991, I’d lost a best friend, my first true love, a high school buddy, and so many others.
When I tested positive in 2001, the losses had stopped. Doctors didn’t talk about death. World AIDS Day, for me, was about hope and optimism, and life, with a capital L.
With PrEP and treatment becoming more vigorous and effective, and undetectable equals untransmittable, World AIDS Day is about celebrating life, because that’s the best way I can honor those I’ve lost, and stay in gratitude.
But ... and there’s a big but, this movement of wanting to rename WAD as World HIV Day alarms me. I think about Rayne, and our LGBT youth, especially those who are homeless and on the streets — and I’ve met many with our Backpacks For The Streets nonprofit for the homeless — who are getting sick and dying, because they only hear that AIDS is over. It’s not.
There are still deaths. Long term survivors are suffering. Kids like Rayne get the the virus, and don’t know the what’s what. If we eliminate the word AIDS, we hurt the most vulnerable in our community, who need to know AIDS is still real.
So while WAD is absolutely about celebrating life, it’s also about using the day as a means to motivate us to be mentors and educators for our homeless youth, who are still falling prey in this epidemic.
World AIDS Day to me is a reverent celebration of 39 million lives lost during the epidemic— none of which I knew but all them having my respect and admiration for their fierceness against this condition. This day is sacred and special. My life and journey with HIV has been easier because of them.
Josh Robbins is an activist and a spokesperson for Dating Positives. This year, new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States have risen for the first time since 1993, and it continues to be a critical epidemic in South Africa. Education and awareness are key to inspire the public to take preventative steps and rally together around the cause. This World AIDS Day, on December 1, Johnson & Johnson is issuing a call-to-action to #makeHIVhistory and flood the feed with facts. A series of HIV/AIDS-related GIFS will be released and can be found by typing #makeHIVhistory into the GIF search on Instagram Stories. The Global Citizen Festival will shed some much needed light on the continued critical AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.
Remembrance and resolve are the words that come to my mind on World AIDS Day. I lost the love of my life 30 years ago to this horrible epidemic — not a day goes by that I don’t think about Jack. We’ve all lost loved ones; our community has lost too many. For me, one of the best ways to remember them is with resolve — the determination to fight HIV, overcome this epidemic and beat back stigma for the people living today.
Rick Guasco is art director of Positively Aware, where he created the HIV treatment magazine’s anti-stigma campaign, A Day with HIV. He has been living with HIV for over 27 years and is a survivor of anal cancer.
World AIDS Day means recognizing all of the amazing people that are no longer in my life and celebrating my friends who are thriving in their health and well-being. The resiliency of people especially LGBT people of color is a true testament of the many advocates that continue the daily fight for resources to educate on the importance of addressing stigma, racism, and other social determinants. Lastly, I am proud to say that as a leader of In Our Own Voices, an LGBT organization for people of color, I have been developing culturally specific interventions that address the need for outside of the box approaches to ending the epidemic.
Tandra LaGrone is the executive director of In Our Own Voices. Read more here.
I was a teenager in the 1980s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic. I just remember being so terrified of HIV and of people who had it — even being in the same room as them. And deep in suburbia there was little being done to change that perception.
On World AIDS Day, I recall that ignorance and fear and how I learned to overcome them through education, experience and compassion. But it’s also a time to acknowledge there are millions of people who think like I did as a scared teenager 30 years ago. HIV/AIDS was not the first time a sexually transmitted illness was used to demonize people — and it probably won’t be the last. On December 1 we remember that the fight is far from over.
Dan Avery is a veteran LGBT journalist whose work has appeared in The Advocate, Newsweek, NBC News, Logo TV. He recently wrote about prostate cancer and gay men which you can read here.