World AIDS Day

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Today is World AIDS Day. A day that normally carries a somber tone, and justifiably so. However, I would like to take a moment and interrupt that tone with a reminder. We have made great strides against HIV and in favor of those directly affected by it. We should also be reminded that despite the advancements made, there is still a long way to go.

I want us to remember everyone we’ve lost along the way, and everyone who fought to the end. Not just today, but every day that resources are available to us. It wasn’t always the case that things like free condoms, testing, and every other option we have to protect each other was readily available to us. People demanded help, and made sure those demands were met.

At the same time, we must continue those battles. Comprehensive and inclusive sex education in schools has always been a subject of debate. But, whether or not we feel young adults should be learning about “the birds and the bees”, they deserve to know their options. Which will, hopefully, in turn lead to them making better and safer choices.

It’s important to care not only for ourselves, but each other. To encourage our loved ones to get tested and to know their status is an act of love. Wanting to get tested, even if you’re in a relationship, should not lead to an argument over trust and faith, but rather one about health and honesty.

Doctors and other health/wellness professionals should be willing and competent to have conversations surrounding HIV and prevention methods. As patients, we have a right to ask that of them. As for our friends and family in the LGBTQ+ community, do not hesitate to determine your level of comfort with those providing medical care to you.

There are many things that we can do, and many ways to get involved in ending this epidemic. The first step is educating ourselves and each other about what HIV is and what it means today.

HIV, now that we have a grasp on what it is, and how to manage it, is not what it used to be. While there is still no cure, it is a manageable chronic illness much like: arthritis, asthma, or diabetes. However, this is often times obscured by stigma. Stigma leaves people feeling ashamed, humiliated, and devalued. Seeing this keeps others from wanting to get tested and being sure about their own status.

But, the truth is, people living with HIV should not feel shame for their status. They can be healthy and happy. They can lead fulfilling lives and continue to do what they are most passionate about. And above all they can still love and be loved. We now have those opportunities. It may be difficult at times, but we are not alone. And in that vein, people wanting to know their status should not feel ashamed for taking leadership of their health. It is up to us to end HIV and AIDS.

So today, please remember that we each have a responsibility and we owe it to ourselves to care for each other, no matter what our status is. If you are negative, try your best to stay negative. If you are positive, try your best to stay healthy. We have so much to celebrate today, but remember how important it is that we continue the hard work those before us have started.

Join Valley AIDS Council this World AIDS Day at one of their commemorative events:

McAllen:
Time: 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Location: McAllen VAC/WBC Parking Lot (300 S. 2nd St. McAllen)
Details: Come listen to testimonials of people living with HIV, Musical Performances, and an overview of how far we have come in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Commit yourself to know your status, stop stigma, and talk about HIV.

Brownsville:
Time: 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Location: Hueso de Fraile; 837 E. Elizabeth St. Suite D, Brownsville. (This is a Coffee and Tea Shop a block away from our Brownsville office)
Details:  Join us this World AIDS Day for a reading of real life testimonials from people living with HIV. Their stories will be read in order to learn about their journeys as people living with HIV and convey a message of encouragement, awareness, and above all love for one another.

To find out more about VAC events, getting tested, or volunteering, please visit: www.ValleyAIDS.org or www.facebook.com/VACSouthTexas