My first encounter with AIDS was in 1993. I visited a friend at the hospital and stayed with him as he died. He was in the emptiest, most solitary part of the hospital. There were few visitors (if any) on that hospital floor, as if they had been condemned to solitary confinement. This was the AIDS section of the hospital—the hospice where people came to die, alone. Some very sickly looking patients walked the corridors, smiling at the few of us who paid visits. You could feel the pain, the loneliness and desperation.
Back in 1993, more than a decade after AIDS was officially declared an epidemic, people were still ignorant about the disease and only linked it to gay men. Even with all evidence to the contrary, some still thought you could contract it through a mere handshake. AIDS sufferers called it the “lonely disease” with good reason. They were the abandoned and the outcast, even rejected by friends and families.
Thirty-one years after the disease was first acknowledged, the HIV virus is still one of the most serious health threats in the world.
December 1 is World AIDS Day and the campaign’s theme for 2011-2015 is Getting to Zero, meaning: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS-related deaths. It’s a call for governments worldwide to act now to provide access to treatment and to honor promises as the Abuja Declaration and for African governments in particular to increase spending on health and HIV prevention.
Read Related: The 5 Tests You Must Have This Year (For Real!)
World AIDS Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of what the numbers of the pandemic are and to encourage public and private collaborators to spread awareness about the standing of the pandemic and push for progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in high prevalence countries and around the world.
THE GLOBAL AIDS CRISIS TODAY