10 Things You Can Do to Fight HIV and AIDS
Get tested, give your time and communicate
With World AIDS Day 2012 just recently observed, the time is right to up your game and contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
This is a time for action. Now and every day until this world is HIV/AIDS-free. Here are 10 things you can do to make a difference.
1.GET TESTED Don’t be afraid and don’t be lazy. Knowing is better than not knowing. Getting tested isn’t like graduating from high school, or getting your wisdom teeth out. It’s not a one-time event. If you’re engaging in high-risk endeavors like unprotected sex, then you need to get tested often. Finding out earlier can absolutely help you live longer. It’s also easy, free and confidential. If you’re not sure where to get tested then click here and find a place near you.
You can also text your ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948), and you will receive a text back with the location of a testing site near you. If phoning is your cup-of-tea, just call 800–CDC–INFO (800–232–4636) and they’ll give you a list of testing areas in your neighborhood.
Also, it might not sound sexy, but go get tested with your partner and show each other the results. Make it a date. Or stay in. But make it happen. No matter what. Get tested. It can sometimes be scary, but not knowing is much scarier.
[ALSO READ: To Be Young, HIV+ and Black]
2. GET EDUCATED There are many places you can get information on HIV/AIDS, but like anything out there, be sure what you’re getting is accurate. A couple of good places to start are amfAR and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Atlanta-based health heroes boast a rich resource bank that can answer just about any questions you have about HIV/AIDS. They can also provide you with incredible tools to stay HIV negative or stave off sickness if you’re already infected.
If you’re thinking globally, then another great resource is UNAIDS, or the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS, which is striving to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. It’s info rich and tech savvy with tools like an iPad app that shows how HIV and AIDS affects different parts of the globe and a data tool that lets you explore AIDS related info in an easy and graphically stunning way.
3. OUTREACH Battling HIV/AIDS isn’t just a personal struggle; the effects of the epidemic on societies is catastrophic. According to UNAIDS, there are more than 34 million people across the globe living with HIV. HIV carries a stigma most-anywhere in the world, but negativity around the disease is most widespread across Africa, where overt societal and institutional prejudices stack the deck for gay men seeking care and education on HIV, as well as access to needed health services. Due to the intense negative attitudes surrounding homosexuality across much of the continent, there isn’t nearly as much hard data regarding the scope of HIV/AIDS and that lack of information makes it much harder to fight.
Thirty-six African countries have laws on the books that make homosexuality a criminal offense that could land someone in prison. These laws force gay men into clandestine relationships and often risky sexual behavior, which in turn can increase the spread of HIV.
All of this might seem far away, but it’s not. Reaching out, through churches, community leaders and our elected officials, to connect with our brethren in Africa is a way to at least voice your support for progressive and humane approaches to the virus.
4. WEAR THE RED RIBBON Grab that red ribbon you wore on Dec. 1, or make one if you can’t find one, and wear it proudly every day of the year. The disease doesn’t take a day off. Neither should you.
If it’s not a ribbon, it’s a bumper sticker, or a pin on the bag. If you rock the red ribbon 365, you’re guaranteed to be categorized as a legit warrior for the cause.
5. GET POLITICAL There are an estimated 1 million men, women and children living with HIV in the United States alone. Add in friends and loved ones of HIV-positive people, and you have an incredibly strong and widespread national electorate who can effect change with their elected representatives. Write, call, fax, text, skywrite, send up a smoke signal or whatever else you have to do to get your elected officials focused on the cause.
AAA or Act Against Aids is a joint effort launched in 2009 by the CDC and White House to counter complacency about HIV. It’s a solid program, but could be fueled by your activism to reach even greater heights. Turn off the television, and put down the laptop for a few minutes to reach out. It will make you feel good and it will make a difference.
6. GET INVOLVED In most major metropolitan areas, there are places to get involved with organizations that are helping fight HIV/AIDS. If you’re reading this, you know how to use the Internet so go do it. And if there are no organizations in your area, be bold and start one yourself in your school, your church or your home. Be a leader. There are people out there you’ve never me who are counting on you.
And get creative. There is no one way to solve this problem, and it will continue to take creative thinkers in every walk of life to bring HIV/AIDS down. If you need resources to spread the word, this is a good place to start. Another good resource is Facing AIDS. You’ll learn you can write, snap and share your way into helping stamp out the epidemic. Give your time through volunteering or make HIV/AIDS prevention, care and cure your career.
There’s real hope that prevention isn’t some pipe dream, but an attainable thing, in the coming years. But any war needs resources in the form of money, and warriors to the cause. What can you do to save a life?
7. DONATE Fighting HIV/AIDS isn’t cheap, but the good news is that if many give a little it will make a big difference. There are numerous AIDS charities and nonprofit organizations accepting donations internationally and locally like the Los Angeles-based nonprofit AIDS Research Alliance. They take cars, clothes and other goods, and of course money in its many forms. Whether you’re thinking globally or locally, there is a place that can use your resources to good effect. Just make sure the organization is legitimate before donating your goods.
Organizations have gotten creative in how they raise funds, having established shopping partnerships with grocers and online retail sites where some of the money you spend will go toward HIV/AIDS research and more.
Some of the more sophisticated organizations can facilitate your donations by mail, domestic and international money transfer, stock, planned giving and more. One-time donations are good, but think about a monthly installment similar to the way you would approach a home or car payment.
8. PRACTICE SAFE SEX This goes for everyone. You. Your sister. Your cousin. Your single mom. Wrap it up. Make sure your partner is clean and knows that safe is sexy. That’s it.
9. PRACTICE TOLERANCE The truth is, gay men make up a disproportionate amount of people walking around with HIV/AIDS in the United States. Furthermore, according to a recently released International AIDS Conference report, an even more disproportionate representation of those infected are African American.
“AIDS in America is a black disease, no matter how you look at it,” said Phil Wilson, president and chief executive of the Black AIDS Institute, who is himself HIV positive.
According to a 74-page report recently released by the Black AIDS Institute, called “Back of the Line: The State of AIDS Among Black Gay Men in America,” black gay and bisexual men make up one in 500 Americans in general, but they account for 1 in 4 new HIV infections in the United States.
Intolerance and homophobia is an ironic black-on-black crime that must be stopped by tolerating differences within the community. If you see or hear intolerance, stand up against it. In many cases, voicing dissent for intolerance is nothing short of life-saving.
10. COMMUNICATE The most important organ we can exercise is our mouths. Talking about HIV/AIDS openly and honestly will erode fear, misunderstanding and stigma. Whether you’re HIV positive, know someone who is, or are simply a supporter of the cause, talking is one of the best and easiest ways to stay healthy and alive.
Talk with your kids, or parents, or brothers and sisters. Anyone who you want to see stay alive. The other half of talking is listening. It can be an incredible support and can shine a light on fears and misconceptions.
Lastly, be ready to be there for people in need. If you’re supporting someone who’s HIV positive, understand they might have special needs you can help out with that could help them stay alive and healthy.