Almost 38 million people worldwide are living with it.
More than 20 million people have died from it.
Many avoid talking about it.
No one wants it.
And there is no cure.
For one day, the global community will stop and collectively eye this devastating, shunned and usually silent killer.
Today is World AIDS Day, a global effort to educate people about HIV/AIDS and to eradicate the epidemic worldwide.
Activists agree this is an especially important time for the younger generation to get involved in the fight against the deadly disease.
“You don’t have to ask how important it is (for us to get involved); just look at the numbers. HIV/AIDS is affecting our generation more than any other in history. Not just in the states, but also abroad. This is our fight now, and it’s a fight we can’t afford to lose,” said Freddie Allen, a Howard University journalism student and editor in chief of Ledge magazine.
Ledge is a publication aimed at increasing HIV/AIDS awareness and promoting healthy lifestyles among black college students.
World AIDS Day was established in 1988 as a combined effort among 140 nations to stop the spread of the disease.
Organizers labeled the day as an opportunity for “governments, national AIDS programs, non-governmental and local organizations, as well as individuals everywhere, to demonstrate both the importance they attached to the fight against AIDS and their solidarity in this effort.”
Today the mission continues.
“World AIDS Day is our opportunity as college students, Americans, and members of the global community to evaluate and to focus on the role we must play in fighting this pandemic,” Allen said. “I feel that World AIDS Day is a great opportunity for those that are not as involved…to seek more information about HIV/AIDS and commit themselves to making a positive change in their communities.”
A number of national organizations and universities have set forth initiatives in observance of this day.
The Florida A&M University Student Health Clinic and the Department of Health and Physical Education will hold an event on the Set today to educate FAMU students and the local community.
“We need to let the students know what is going on in our community,” said University health educator Monique Potter.
FAMU’s program will include student presentations and panelists from the University’s health department as well as officials from Leon and Gadsden County health departments and New Hope Counseling Center Inc.
The Black AIDS Institute, the nation’s only mobilization initiative geared toward blacks, is partnering with Essence magazine in an effort to raise awareness about the effect of the disease on the black community, black women in particular.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AIDS is the No. 1 killer of black women between the ages of 24 and 44. Of all the newly contracted HIV cases, black women account for 72 percent.
This year World AIDS Day will focus on just that issue.
Women and AIDS.
“Have You Heard Me Today?” echoes throughout all the literature distributed in support of the global campaign; hopeless eyes of women stare from “World AIDS Day” posters as people get a chance to see the faces truly affected by this epidemic.
Tomorrow World AIDS Day will be over.
The posters will be gone.
And the women and men living with the disease can only hope that their bodies will continue the fight and carry them to next year’s World AIDS Day.
“Some days I wish I didn’t have HIV. But some days I’m glad I do,” writes Jonathan Perry, a senior at Johnson C. Smith University, in the fall issue of Ledge.
“Maybe my role in life is to die horribly from this disease so somebody else won’t die from it.”
Contact Elizabeth Broadway at firstname.lastname@example.org.