Today is World AIDS Day, and there is much to be grateful for (advances in care), much to do (supporting those with HIV, educating people about it), and much to know.
This year’s theme for World Aids Day is Focus, Partner and Achieve. Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, director of the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infections Disease Policy, said the intent is to focus on areas of the world that bear the most burden from AIDS; build partnerships among advocates, doctors and community; and achieve an end to this epidemic.
As NYSUT’s many health care professionals in schools, colleges, hospitals and home care know, getting and keeping people in HIV medical care saves lives. The Center for Disease Control reminds us that doctors, nurses, and others working in health care systems can:
- Test patients for HIV as a regular part of medical care.
- Counsel patients who do not have HIV on how to prevent it.
- Make sure people living with HIV are prescribed and take HIV medicines, stay in care and get supportive services such as nutrition, housing, or mental health services.
- Work with health departments to get and keep people in HIV medical care.
Those of us who are not in the health field can take action as well.
“World Aids Day is a time for recommitment,” said Catalina Fortina, NYSUT vice president. “We should continue advocacy to make sure people living with HIV/AIDS get services and full support.We may have children in our classroom who have parents or family members living with this illness.”
At the lesson plan site of the American Federation of Teachers, Share My Lesson, teachers can help high school students understand and learn about AIDS through “Asmina’s Story.” Asmina is a girl who became an orphan when her parents died of AIDS.
How to help? Here’s one idea: NYSUT staff recently contributed to a blanket drive to gather lap blankets for The Damien Center in Albany, N.Y.; a resource and activity center for people with HIV and AIDS. Among other offerings, they provide community meals and grocery education program. Search for a center near you that may have its own wish list.
Are you an animal lover? So are many people with HIV/AIDS – for some people that tail-wagging puppy is their only or primary companion. At PAWS, services include in-home pet care, dog walking, veterinary care, or transportation. The idea is to help those with this illness continue to keep their pets with them. Search for a program like this near you — donate time or money, as did NYSUT staff in a fundraiser.
By the numbers
According to the CDC, in 2011, more than 1.2 million people were living with HIV in the US.
4 in 10
Only 4 in 10 people living with HIV were in HIV medical care.
3 in 10
Only 3 in 10 people living with HIV achieved viral suppression.
Taking HIV medicines allows people living with HIV to have nearly normal lifespans and greatly reduces their chances of transmitting the virus, reports the CDC. Only 30% of all people living with HIV have this viral suppression. However — if they are in HIV medical care, 76% of people achieve that viral suppression.
“We should continue to lobby for support, including social services, for people with HIV/AIDS,” said Fortino.
Further information is available at http://greaterthan.org/articles/essenceworldaidsday/; or http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/world-aids-day/).