THE BLOG
11/22/2016 11:50 am ET Updated Nov 23, 2017

Renaming World AIDS Day As World HIV Day

The first response of governments and institutions to the HIV epidemic lagged behind the passionate work of dedicated individuals who cared for those infected, fought against discrimination and bigotry, disseminated news on treatment and prevention, and finally won resources to combat HIV.

The origins of World HIV Day honors those early activists and remembers those who died as a result of that slow response. Historically, World AIDS Day (WAD) was an early public awareness campaign, every Dec 1st, since 1988. While WAD received the institutional support that so many fought to win; it is time to look at what still needs to be accomplished to end HIV.

It is time for a new generation of HIV activists to build fresh paths. Much remains to be done to end HIV. A global effort is put forth daily to combat the virus that still remains an epidemic, destroying too many lives.

Research has shown stigma is one of the leading barriers to ending HIV, but stigma reduction efforts are relegated to the bottom of HIV program priorities.

Access to HIV treatment and prevention is not equal. Global economics plays a large role in this imbalance. We cannot defeat a virus that carriers an international passport by focusing solely at home or international favorites.

Within the US:

The racial HIV gap and the racial health gap in general, is strongly correlated with the racial wealth gap, which in turn is the direct outcome of both historical and contemporary processes of segregation in housing, education, employment, and health care as well as racially skewed mass incarceration. In this way, race -- as it intersects with poverty, gender, and sexuality among other factors -- becomes the embodiment of a multifaceted social exclusion and the rationalization for massive health inequities.


We defeat HIV when we embrace social justice and the fundamental human dignity and leadership of affected populations around the globe.

Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 created $48 billion over the next 5 years to combat global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria to address the real threat of HIV and acknowledge that without resources we will not end this epidemic. This funding while significant is acknowledged as a start and without further investment these resources will not be able to reach their intention.

With changes in governments and policies around the world -- most recently in the USA -- there is a real risk that HIV will be deprioritized and fatally defunded.

If we choose, we can revert to persecution, blame and despair, jettisoning proven science, dismantling the progress of the last 35 years, and driving up new infections and deaths.

But, if we choose, we can end HIV by prioritizing resources for key populations and meet the challenge of dismantling systems that create poverty, mass incarceration, and harness access to full access to health care and education, and create new structures that support inclusion and diversity.

The message behind reclaiming Dec 1st as World HIV Day is not merely around the change of letters, but around who sits at that table and who needs to participate. The fight to end HIV desperately needs all of us. We cannot be activists talking to each other, we must bring others to the table and keep them there, engaged, contributing, and learning. World HIV Day cannot be about institutions or singular agendas but it must involve all, from under-represented, most at risk, and each global citizen.

AIDS was our past, HIV is our present and our future can be a world where we ended a virus, by making an unprecedented sustained global investment in combining science with respect for the human rights of all. This December the 1st -- let us commit to creating a World Without HIV. Let's End HIV. WorldHIVDay.org

Sean Howell is co-founder and President of Hornet Gay Social Network, a 15 million member gay social network. Gay men need better access to HIV treatment and prevention globally, Hornet is supporting the efforts of World HIV Day on its platform and continuing to push this agenda.