World AIDS Day: Honoring the Lives Lost and Living with HIV

December 1, 2022

Culture

World AIDS Day, celebrated on December 1st each year, brings attention to the AIDS pandemic and its impact on the LGBTQIA+ community. This day serves as a reminder of the devastation caused by HIV/AIDS, but also of the progress that has been made in treating and managing the virus. It is important to understand both the history and science behind HIV/AIDS so that we can make sure it is never forgotten, and to recognize how far we have come in our fight against it.

The Science Behind HIV/AIDS
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is spread through contact with bodily fluids such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), vaginal fluid, rectal mucus, and breast milk. The virus attacks T cells which are responsible for helping our immune systems fight off infection and disease. When left untreated, HIV can weaken our immune systems so much that what would usually be considered minor infections can become deadly illnesses. Fortunately, however, thanks to advanced treatments such as antiretroviral therapy (ART), people living with HIV can now live long healthy lives without ever developing AIDS.

The History of AIDS in the LGBTQIA+ Community
HIV/AIDS first came to prominence in 1981 when healthcare workers began noticing an increase in rare illnesses among homosexual men. In 1982 it was first referred to as GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) before it was renamed Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) later that same year. For years afterward it was known as “the gay disease” or “gay cancer” due to its high prevalence among LGBTQIA+ individuals. However, we now know that anyone can contract HIV regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Facts about Loss Within Our Community
It’s estimated that around 1 million people within our community have died from AIDS-related illnesses since 1981 – a statistic that cannot be ignored. In addition, gay men are still one of the most at-risk populations for becoming infected with HIV; for example, according to data from 2019, gay or bisexual men accounted for 63% of all new diagnoses in America alone. This alarming rate shows just how much work needs to be done for our community members living with HIV/AIDS to get access to the life-saving treatments and care they need.

Facts About AIDS Inequality in the LGBTQIA+ Community
As of 2018, there were an estimated 38 million people worldwide living with HIV—of which only 40% were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Additionally, 80% of all new HIV diagnoses belonged to members of marginalized communities such as sex workers, drug users, incarcerated individuals—and yes—LGBTQIA+ individuals too! This means that one-third of all new cases are members of an already disadvantaged group; leaving them even more vulnerable to poverty and inequality than they already are. These facts illustrate why World Aids Day is so important for creating awareness about this often overlooked population—and how urgent it is that we work together to ensure everyone has access to treatment options like ART regardless of their race or sexual orientation.

World AIDS Day serves as a reminder that while there are still millions suffering from this virus around the world—we have come a long way since its emergence in 1981 when many thought no one other than gay men could get infected by this virus. Now thanks to treatments like antiretroviral therapy (ART), people living with HIV enjoy longer lifespans without ever developing full-blown AIDS—illustrating just how far medicine has come since then! On World Aids Day we stand together not only in remembrance but also celebration; celebrating both those who are no longer here with us today but also those who can live a life full of love and joy despite having this virus! Let us keep fighting until everyone everywhere has access to affordable quality healthcare no matter their race or sexual orientation!

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