When last I wrote on World AIDS Day last year, it was on behalf of "4 Friends." Four like-minded organizations that came together to do something on World AIDS Day, which is on Dec. 1. Each were asked to participate this year, and they all said no. They didn’t have the time.
The last time the HIV planning council reported on how people living with HIV or AIDS are coping and living with this disease was in April 2010, more than two years ago. In that amount of time, we could have figured out how to change some minds about prevention and how to meet their unmet needs that have not changed.
We knew back then that 62% of HIV-positive people who had sex in the past 12 months did not always tell their partners they were HIV-positive. 49% don’t always tell their partners they are positive and more than half of HIV-positive people said they don’t always use condoms when having sex with HIV-negative people. It’s also estimated that about half of negative people do not ask questions either. After 31 years of AIDS awareness, we still don’t talk openly about sex, about our lives and about HIV.
When was the last time we saw an effective prevention ad that caused us to pause and think?
When was the last time we had vigorous discussions, gathered in our homes and checked up on all our friends who we knew were struggling? Have we run out of time for them? Yet, we’ll be told again this year that we are closer than ever to the end of AIDS, that it’s only a matter of time. Our President said last year that we are contemplating being close to zero.
When was the last time we heard that? In 1994 and most years since then. I even remember the time in 1984 when all were told that the general population should not worry because it was limited to just “certain segments of our society.”
The only thing, it seems to me, that has changed is the year.
This year we will focus on ending the stigma. Last year, Elton John said that “AIDS is caused by a virus. The AIDS ‘epidemic’ is not. The epidemic is fueled by hatred, ignorance, and intolerance.” It’s been the same since this crisis began.
Have we been beaten down so long that we forgot what fueled our early response? Our love and compassion for each other.
We took the time that was needed to help each other live and cope as best as we could. There was no giving up.
If we can recapture the compassion and the love that makes us who we are, we will end AIDS. This is the only truth we know. An infectious disease -- HIV -- is spread by one of us to another. When we stop infecting others and stop putting ourselves at risk for infection, AIDS will vanish from the face of the Earth.
Will we change our ways and put an end to this war we are waging on ourselves?
We fight against hate on issues of marriage and equality. More than ever we need to love ourselves and others, and do it as if our lives depended on it.
If we want to live, love and be free to create our own families, lets join together and pledge that AIDS ends with us. Can each of us make this change?
To begin a real conversation, I have created a campaign: AIDS Ends With Me.
It’s the best chance each of us -- positive or negative, red state or blue state, gay, straight, bi or transgender, men or women, young or old or in between -- to take a few moments and ask ourselves: Will we make a personal pledge to live life healthy, fully and with love?
Until we do this, in another 9 and a half minutes, someone else will become infected. And they will ask: Can it be changed?
Like the Beatles sung, “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Let’s change to love and be loved. Don’t let AIDS stand in our way. Change.
Tom McSorley created the "AIDS Ends With Me" campaign, which can be found online HERE.