World AIDS Day Calls For Action, Builds Awareness Of HIV
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A red ribbon pinned on a t-shirt there. Another red loop embellished on this sign. Keep your eyes peeled on Dec. 1 for the iconic red ribbon, considered the international symbol for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) awareness. Every year on Dec. 1, people all around the world gather to commemorate World AIDS Day. Individuals not only show support for those who are living with HIV, but also to commemorate those who have passed as well to unite people in the fight against the illness.
In particular, World AIDS Day highlights the importance of learning more about HIV. The virus targets the body´s immune system, making it difficult to fight against diseases. It can be passed through infected body fluids via mechanisms like infected needles, syringes and other injecting drug equipment, as well as during sex without a condom.
Supporters of World AIDS Day believe that it is also essential to increase awareness of the disease. For one, individuals should be screened and know their HIV status. Advances have made testing more and more convenient, with quick results and an opt-out rule that tests patients automatically unless they request to opt out of the exam.
“Our demographic data is revealing that adolescents and young adults, especially males, have a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS than previously thought. That makes it especially important to talk about risk reduction early and often,” explained Dr. Peggy Smith, director of the Baylor Teen Health Clinic, in a prepared statement.
The Baylor Teen Health Clinic has also utilized social media and technology to promote knowledge about HIV/AIDS.
“The staff at all of our clinics encourage adolescents and youth to make good decisions about all behaviors, including sexual behaviors,” continued Smith in the statement. “In addition, we have implemented our messaging through electronic platforms that are effective with young people by using text messaging and our blog to continue to reinforce good behavior and urge our patients to think twice about risky behavior.”
Another goal of World AIDS Day is to decrease stigma of people who are HIV-positive.
“It is the community´s responsibility to assist and deliver compassion, to share with patients that they are not alone,” said Debra Bourdeaux, Chief Executive Officer of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, whose organization has held HIV/AIDS screenings and information workshops in the past.
Lastly, groups all around the world are calling on individuals to take action. For example, World AIDS Day in the United Kingdom has challenged individuals to “act aware.” People can take the online quiz on HIV facts or share the quiz via social media like Facebook and Twitter. They can also visit HIVaware, a website focused on providing information in an interactive manner. Lastly, individuals can “act aware” by calling on their government representatives to become more educated on HIV or by fundraising for HIV research.
All in all, HIV is a serious issue worth learning more about. Around the globe, over 34 million people are living with HIV. Between 1981 and 2007, over 25 million people have died due to the virus. In particular, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working on decreasing new HIV infections throughout the world with a mix of effective prevention tools, including limiting mother-to-child transmission, promoting voluntary medical male circumcision, and increasing treatment of people who test as HIV-positive. So, even though World AIDS Day is only once a year, it is important to remember to keep talking about the issue and promote fundraisers throughout the year.