Since 1988, December 1st has been set aside as a day to commemorate those who have suffered from AIDS and unify those who are currently affected. It is a day to raise support and fight discrimination. There are more than 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. These individuals are found in every country and every facet of society. AIDS affects each and every one of us in some way. Becoming HIV positive is a traumatic experience, but with the proper treatment, is no longer a death sentence. Advances in medicine and our understanding of the disease have dramatically improved the lives of HIV positive individuals, both in terms of length and quality. However, these life-sustaining treatments are expensive and force individuals into a constant battle between their health and finances. Besides the burden of disease, HIV positive individuals must overcome significant discrimination and a lack of treatment resources. Show your support for their life-long struggle this December 1st.
HIV/AIDS is often described as a disease of developing countries, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at the end of 2006, there were 1.1 million HIV positive adults and adolescents in the US. Here are some statistics concerning HIV status and infection rates in the city of Chicago.
- In 2006, there were 21, 367 people living with HIV/AIDS in Chicago.
- In 2006, there were 754 new diagnosed AIDS cases in Chicago and 1,557 HIV cases.
- Among news diagnoses, 74% were male and 26% were female.
- Overall infection rates have declined by 20% in the last six years, but the rate among adolescents age 15-24 has increased by 42%.
*All statistics are from the Chicago Department of Public Health, STD/HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, Summer 2008.
Stigma and Discrimination:
Despite the fact that our medical understanding of HIV has dramatically increased over the past few decades, social behaviors and stigmas against being positive have been slow to change. People with HIV face discrimination at work, in school, from friends or family, even in healthcare settings. Although the law does offer some protection from HIV-related discrimination, the stigma experienced by people living with HIV means that they are often at risk and constantly fear the disclosure of their HIV status. HIV prejudice is often the result of ignorance about how HIV is passed on and the unfounded fear of becoming infected through casual interactions
Discrimination is compounded by social stigmas against behaviors associated with HIV transmission such as needle sharing, anal sex, and other sexually “promiscuous” activities. People assume that positive individuals were engaging in “risky” behavior and are, in a way, to blame for their condition. Society not only blames positive individuals for their own status, it also associates blame for the spread of AIDS with certain populations. Ever since AIDS became a global concern, it has been painted as a disease of “the other”-the poor, immigrants, homosexuals, and drug users. This mentality has not only caused undue discrimination within these populations, but has also created erroneous categories of who is “at risk” and who “doesn’t need” proper information on HIV prevention. The reality is that this disease does not discriminate. Everyone must have access to the necessary prevention resources.
Encouraging those around us to talk about HIV and find out the facts can help overcome these discriminatory ideas that keep positive individuals from accessing necessary treatment and support.
- AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame, Paul Farmer
- The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive, by Marvelyn Brown, Courtney Martin
- The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS, by Elizabeth Pisani
- Teenagers, HIV, and AIDS: Insights from Youths Living with the Virus, edited by Maureen E. Lyon and Lawrence J. D’Angelo