On World AIDS Day, this Friday, December 1, we remain committed to remembering and paying respect and tribute to the past, celebrating the present, and moving toward an AIDS-Free generation in our future. As we take time out of our busy holiday schedules, it’s important to acknowledge the importance of World AIDS Day – this public health awareness day was first recognized in December of 1988. Part of our role here at the Nebraska AIDS Project is to advocate on behalf of those living with HIV and to educate the most vulnerable populations on risks and how to mitigate them. In doing so, we serve an important role in recognizing the intersection where the history of HIV and AIDS meets the future. We have come a long way but there is still important work to be done. Our call to action includes 9 achievable items. We hope that you’ll find at least one (or perhaps 9) that speak to you individually and we ask that you join us in our mission toward a future generation that is HIV- and AIDS-free.
- Remember the names of those we’ve lost – remember not only their physical challenges but also the social struggles they endured – truly consider the humanity of every person whose life was cut short due to HIV, particularly during those initial 10 years, when comprehension of the disease was limited and social confusion on the topic created some of the more stigmatizing views that we continue to encounter today.
- Support those who speak about their own lived experience with HIV or AIDS – Many individuals living with HIV are reluctant to talk openly about their lived experience. Many still feel shame in their diagnosis, and some are hesitant to even inform close family members due to fear of their reactions. Imagine what it must feel like to hold on to this information and carry the burden alone. The more we collectively encourage people living with HIV to talk about their own experiences, the more the public view and confusion surrounding HIV softens. Real people serve to both humanize and normalize the topic. If you know someone living with HIV who is willing to talk about their status, refer them to us – we will give them a platform to share their experience, and encourage and support their needs in doing so to the best of our ability. Treatment for people has come a LONG way since the first AIDS diagnosis in 1981 and treatment and preventive options continue to improve. It’s time our social awareness catches up to the great strides we’ve made on a scientific level.
Request a speaker or presenter using this online form.
- Recognize populations who are most vulnerable to HIV and educate them or refer them to NAP for education on HIV. Populations most vulnerable today include not only gay men, but bisexual and trans folx. Very specifically, African American and Latinx populations of LGBT identities – who now account for a larger prevalence of new diagnoses each year. The most vulnerable population, which is individuals under the age of 25, need comprehensive sex education and access to information as well as safe spaces to access condoms, health care, and treatment. In order for us to see a world without new diagnoses, younger audiences need to be aware of how to minimize risk of transmission.
Request an educational speaker using this online form or call 402-552-9260 ext 105 for the Prevention & Outreach Manager.
- Donate money or raise money to support NAP (or agencies like NAP who serve those living with HIV). It might sound obvious, but agencies like NAP primarily exist because there are large gaps to address – not only within access to healthcare and treatment options, but to socially supportive services such as support groups, or assistance in obtaining and maintaining both jobs and housing. Funding from both federal and state programs AND individuals donors gets harder and harder to maintain as HIV and AIDS moves beyond the headline-grabbing stories of the 1980s and 1990s. Individual donors may either believe that a crisis no longer exists related to HIV, or they may simply see a larger net of causes that need financial support and each donor is put in an unfortunate situation to have to prioritize how they give charitably. Donating money is still fundamental to the cause and we will find a way to put donations to good use. At NAP, our services are life-enhancing on an average day and life-saving on a good one.
Donate to NAP or visit our Ways to Give page.
- Educate yourself on the history of HIV and self-reflect on your own role within. If you are white and college-educated, specifically, reflect on your privilege within the context of HIV. POZ Magazine recently published an op-ed asking where all of the activism (and some of the funding) had gone to support HIV and AIDS globally. The same magazine later published an open letter response to the piece, suggesting that when young, white, men stopped dying from AIDS-related illnesses, we removed a large piece of the most outspoken activists from the ongoing efforts. Both sides of this argument are valid and both sides indicate a need to re-activate some of those who were formerly champions of the cause and evolve our efforts to better serve the changing needs of the present and future.
- Vote in 2018 – as federal funding continues to remain flat or decrease over time, we need to seek leaders who prioritize HIV matters – so that treatment and care remain available to those with low or no income, those struggling with mental health or addiction, and those who might be inclined to discontinue treatment or medical care if more barriers were put into place to get it. Register to vote, register to vote by mail (it’s easy to do), and encourage your peers to do the same. We don’t have to share political opinions, but regional actions create global impact.
- Volunteer your time as a testing counselor at NAP – counselors serve as educators and advocates for anyone getting tested. They offer suggestions on how to minimize risk, referrals to treatment or care, provide free condoms, and referrals to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP).
Become a volunteer.
- Get tested yourself and talk about that experience to the level at which you are comfortable – this normalizes the experience for others – Nebraska is the last state in the US in which you have to opt-in to receive an HIV test, rather than opting-out. This means that in order to ensure you are tested, you have to ask for the test to be performed. If you’ve donated blood or given blood for the purposes of purchasing life insurance, you have probably opted-in through that process. Regular annual exams with a primary care doctor are trickier – you’ll have to ask that the test be performed. Or better yet, stop by a NAP office – our testing is free and confidential and no insurance is needed. There’s no shame in getting a test and it’s important that those vulnerable populations mentioned above hear this – not just from us, but from people they know and trust – like you.
Schedule an appointment at any NAP testing location.
- Reduce the way you consume HIV and AIDS as a form of entertainment. There are hundreds upon thousands of jokes and punchlines in the world – HIV and AIDS has certainly been included on that list. Make an effort to contemplate how HIV and AIDS is modified to entertain in a way that furthers the social stigma felt by those living with HIV. Make a personal commitment to resign from the inclusion of those jokes and call out those who include HIV or AIDS within their personal arsenal of punchlines. We’ve come a long way since 1981, and there are a million ways to lighten a mood that aren’t at the expense of another human.
As we reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are headed, let us not lose sight of humanity in every step along the path. We can do so much to move beyond our history and toward a future without HIV and AIDS. Each action begins in the present-tense.