The stigma associated with HIV is only partially to blame. More problematic is the difficulty of reaching the most vulnerable members of the U.S. population who are living with HIV but unaware of their status: racial and ethnic minorities, the poor and disenfranchised, and people who are homeless.
Last year, we celebrated 30 years of progress in the fight against AIDS. This year, let's celebrate World AIDS Day by looking forward. We've challenged ourselves by setting an ambitious goal of an AIDS-free generation. Let's examine where we are on our way to that goal.
I am not ashamed of my HIV-positive status, and I don't hide the fact that I have HIV, but I have never taken the time to write my personal viewpoint, mostly due to fear: fear of the response from the ignorant, or from people who are just hateful.
The dearth of proud, openly positive gay people online in most cities is a lost opportunity for all of us. More open disclosure can lead toward better, more informed, and safer sex. It would also go far toward removing some of the shame we have toward the disease.
Asking a casual or an ongoing partner to take an HIV test right in the bedroom may sound shocking, and our participants' partners were often taken aback, to say the least. But for the most par, they understood the logic of the request.
When we avoid talking about the issue of HIV/AIDS, we push it back into the shadows. In those shadows is where HIV/AIDS does more damage than it can ever do to a community that is vigilant about addressing both the virus and their experiences surrounding it, regardless of HIV status.
Despite a steady decline in HIV deaths, NYC remains an epicenter of the U.S. epidemic. But now, testing yourself for HIV will soon be simple. While celebrating this new drug, however, we must ensure it reaches those in greatest need.
In the larger scale, the newly FDA-approved home HIV test will prove to be a worthy foot soldier in the battle against AIDS. But as in any war using a novel weapon, there will be individual tragedies along the way that will question its ethical utility.
Black people bear the brunt of this epidemic. We are 13% of the population, but about half of the estimated 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS, nearly half of new HIV cases, and half of annual AIDS-related deaths in this country are Black.
As a community, we need to be more aware of STIs. We should each make sure to have at least one close friend to talk to about our health record, and I certainly hope each and every one of us has a doctor with whom we are comfortable talking about our sexual experiences.
To honor my late family, I have opted to speak out on AIDS. Change begins with me. I am on a personal campaign to encourage women to get tested and to replace ignorance with knowledge; shame with liberty.