2018 World AIDS Day: Then and now

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SANTA FE – From helpless darkness to hopeful light, the annual World AIDS Day events held throughout the globe on Dec. 1 for the past 30 years are morphing before our very eyes from somber remembrances into celebrations of positive possibilities for those living with HIV/AIDS in 2018. Events that began in the 1980s as commemorations for those tens of thousands of individuals who had so quickly lost their lives in the daunting battle with HIV/AIDS have now evolved into an ongoing honor-memorial and a hope-filled celebration for those tens of thousands of individuals who are living – and thriving – with HIV/AIDS today. This seemingly miraculous transition takes each of us down a road far less traveled, one that one day may replace the stigma associated so intimately with HIV/AIDS. … .

World AIDS Day has taken place on Dec. 1 each year since it began in 1988 to provide an opportunity for all those individuals whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS – which in 2018 likely now includes each and every one of us – to unite as an awakened force to keep moving forward in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, to honor those lives lost in the fight, and to celebrate the advances that bring such great hope to this time and our common future.

Since the identification of the virus in 1984, more than 35 million people have lost their lives from AIDS, one of the most destructive pandemics in world history. Additionally, an estimated 35.7 million people globally are still living with the HIV virus. Through most of the 1980s, a positive HIV diagnosis was seen as an almost certain death sentence, with no available options for life-saving treatment. As the hopelessness of these devastating circumstances created a debilitating fear through affected communities in city after city in America and around the world, activist groups were being born from the devastation to bring attention to the growing problem of HIV/AIDS – no matter the cost. As more and more vibrant young people received a positive diagnosis, freedom became just another word for “nothing left to lose.” One group known as Act Up, with sister groups in most major cities across America, was started by Larry Kramer in New York to bring attention in any way possible to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Act Up aimed its activism in all directions: 1) at politicians to provide research funds, 2) at celebrities to support the causes and fundraising within the pandemic, and 3) at individuals to take personal responsibility for educating everyone about how the disease was spreading and the means to stop the spread of the disease.

The fully awakened advocacy and activism of groups like Act Up brought a loud and disruptive noise into the public eye over what seemed to be an intensely long period of time – until: 1) the politicians produced the funds that were needed for research, 2) the celebrities created the funds that were needed to support life for those affected and educate those who could protect themselves, 3) the pharmaceutical companies created the research and followed with products to extend, then sustain, life for infected individuals, and most important, 4) individuals from everywhere found their own voices with new ways to support what became a worldwide movement against HIV/AIDS, all parts coming together as ONE force for good in a fight that has now lasted over 30 years, and victories can now be seen across the board.

Individuals in treatment are now living extended lives and thriving with HIV/AIDS! And there’s more: The CDC has announced that “people living with HIV on (antiretroviral therapy) with an undetectable viral load in their blood work have a negligible risk of sexual transmission of HIV.”

All of this comes together to explain why again in 2018 we gather together on Dec. 1 to honor and remember the “what was” with the AIDS pandemic for the better part of 30 years, and to celebrate the “what is” of individuals who are living and thriving with HIV/AIDS treatments today.

Source : https://www.abqjournal.com/1250405/2018-world-aids-day-then-and-now.html