Honoring World AIDS Day

Honoring World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is designated as December 1 every year and 2021 marks more than 30 years of this worldwide observance. The day is chosen as a time to spotlight the impact of HIV/AIDS, support those who are living with HIV/AIDS, honor the lives that have been affected by the disease, and to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses.

Nurses have seen remarkable changes in the way many cases of HIV/AIDS are diagnosed, treated, and managed from the days in 1988 when World AIDS Day began. And the advances in treatment mean that today, many people are living with HIV. But there are still people contracting HIV/AIDS across the globe, and the inequities in access to healthcare and prevention tools make HIV/AIDS especially difficult to eradicate.

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics.” The theme highlights how the crisis of the HIV epidemic and the COVID-19 crisis share similarities. In both cases, inequity has had a significant impact on health outcomes for different communities worldwide.

In a statement about World AIDS Day, the United Nations relayed the urgency of eliminating disparities by saying, “Economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities must be ended as a matter of urgency if we are to end AIDS by 2030.”  As treatments become more targeted and more effective, living with HIV is now possible in a way that wasn’t in reach when this day began. There is more hope and that’s something that continues to drive people advocate for those living with HIV.

Even after December 1 has passed, you can show your support by wearing the iconic red ribbon as a symbol that you recognize and are an ally to those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. You can continue to advocate for more research, wide patient protections, and take steps to reduce the stigma around this disease.

As a nurse, you can work with patients to make sure they are aware of HIV prevention, of the treatments and testing that is available today, of mental health supports, and of the legal protections that people living with HIV/AIDS have. You are also in a good position to advocate for patients who want more information and for families and loved ones who want to support those living with HIV/AIDS.

As science continues to make strides in helping people prevent transmission, in treating people, and in reducing the stigma around HIV/AIDS, more will be able to manage living with the disease for decades. Those people become ambassadors for achieving a healthy life and having hope despite a frightening diagnosis.


World AIDS Day: So Much Progress, So Much More to Do

World AIDS Day: So Much Progress, So Much More to Do

In this season of reflection, today’s World AIDS Day is a time to think of the incredible life-saving advances accomplished since the early 1980s and to be reinvigorated to do the continual work that is still necessary.

The Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund of the US Department of Health and Human Services has designated this year’s theme as “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships.”

As a nurse, December 1 is a time to help patients break the stigma of HIV and AIDS and to offer support, information, and treatment to those affected by the disease. December 1 is also a time to honor those who died from this disease and to help their families and loved ones know the fight against AIDS continues.

In 1988, World AIDS Day was first recognized, only five years after the AIDS virus was first identified and in the middle of the crisis surrounding the disease. According to the National AIDS Trust, nearly 37 million people live with HIV and AIDS-related diseases right now – just slightly more than the number of people who have died from it.

According the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, minorities are especially hard-hit with infection rates. African American men, particularly those who are gay or bisexual, have higher proportional rates of infection than other populations. Part of the challenge in AIDS eduction and awareness is understanding some of the cultural, ethnic, socio-economic, and regional influences that influence behaviors; prevent access to information, treatment, and prevention; and deepen a stigma around AIDS.

Many nurses today remember the near-hysteria that greeted the outbreak of AIDS-related illness and the resulting misinformation, discrimination, and hostility that followed. Just as nurses back then treated their gravely ill patients with respect and dignity, they continue to do so today. The difference is that today’s treatments and advances have given nurses a reason to offer hope to those diagnosed or living with HIV and AIDS illness. There is so much more known about the disease, its causes, its transmission, and effective treatment approaches.

Today, treatments that were never imagined 35 years ago are possible. Post exposure treatment (known as post-exposure prophylaxis) is available as is pre-exposure treatment. Drug therapies can keep the disease from advancing as rapidly as it once did.

Wear a red ribbon today, the long-standing traditional representation of AIDS awareness, in honor of those impacted by AIDS. Use #WAD2017 on your social media channels to spread awareness and call attention to this day. Each time it is brought out into the open, a bit of the stigma will fade.