Did you know over 37 million people are currently living with HIV? During HIV/AIDS Awareness Month, consider how you can get involved to help make the world HIV/AIDS free.
HIV/AIDS Awareness Month
Each year, December marks HIV/AIDS Awareness Month. It is a month dedicated to spreading awareness of the AIDS pandemic, including support for those living with HIV as well as ways to help end the disease.
Despite medical and policy advances, the US is still the leading developed nation in HIV-positive patients with over one million Americans currently diagnosed. Many of these individuals experience adverse social determinants of health–that is, an HIV diagnosis is only one of many struggles they face. Experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, and even domestic violence are all more statistically common for HIV and AIDS positive patients than those who are negative.
Awareness is critical to helping end the public health crisis surrounding HIV/AIDS. Health and human service organizations are among those best poised to make a lasting impact. Ensuring that the populations they serve have access to information, resources, testing, and medication is an essential step for all social services.
A study in 2014 found that, while most chronic diseases fall on a socio-economic and health gradient, HIV almost exclusively affects those living at or below the poverty line. This finding suggests that HIV is inseparably enmeshed with other social issues, and as such needs a whole person care approach. Large-scale solutions for ending the spread of HIV are best achieved through coordination between all community leaders and programs.
The Challenge of AIDS in 2021
Although HIV/AIDS Awareness Month has been recognized since 1988, this year requires special attention. The complications of COVID-19 have created even more challenges for those living with HIV/AIDS. As this is now the second HIV/AIDS Awareness Month during the coronavirus pandemic, efforts have only strengthened to lessen the burden of COVID-19 on HIV/AIDS patients.
While barriers for those with HIV have always existed, the coronavirus epidemic has only magnified these issues. When quarantine was first instituted back in March 2020, many clinics were unprepared to go virtual. HIV/AIDS patients require daily medications to stay alive, and many feared being unable to access such vital treatments.
Again, social and health disparities were at work against HIV patients. As many still face discrimination in the workplace and are unemployed, some patients are unable to afford the technology needed for telehealth visits.
Other HIV-positive individuals have reported feeling neglected during the pandemic. Despite the critical, life-saving nature of HIV/AIDS treatment, some worry the stigma surrounding this disease continues to divert medical attention away from HIV patients, even when they need it most.
“The pandemic may have exacerbated gaps already present in the HIV space,” notes Maggie Shaw of the American Journal of Managed Care, or AJMC.
Ways to Honor HIV/AIDS Awareness Month
Despite the challenges that HIV-positive individuals still face, there is much to be hopeful for. UNAIDS has set the goal to completely eradicate HIV by 2030, and with preventative medications like PrEP available to more and more people, this goal may yet be possible.
Like lifting a piano, these large goals can only be accomplished by everyone pitching in and lifting where they stand. No matter what part of the world you may be in–or what health and human service organization you are a part of—here are ways you can honor World AIDS Day.
- Wear a Red Ribbon
A red ribbon is the symbol for HIV and AIDS awareness, as it represents both support for those living with HIV and remembrance for those who have passed from the disease. Wear a red ribbon on your lapel, wrist, or bag to spread awareness and create a safe space for individuals around you who may be HIV-positive.
- Share a Social Media Post
Awareness is one of the key components to eradicating AIDS, and social media is one of the best ways to do it. Share a picture, post, or tweet about World AIDS Day–this blog article could also be a great item to share! Doing so helps educate more people about the realities of HIV/AIDS.
- Donate to HIV/AIDS Organizations
Nonprofit organizations like JASMYN are at the heart of solving the HIV crisis in the United States, and they need all the support they can get. Look for LGBTQ+ and AIDS-focused programs to consider donating money or resources to. Every bit helps.
- Collaborate with the Community
Do you know where your local HIV or Ryan White organizations are? Get to know the resources in your own community is an essential step in building networks and spreading information. Consider encouraging other health and human service organizations in your community–like food banks or shelters–to collaborate with HIV/AIDS focused groups.
- Get Tested Regularly
One of the most important parts to ending HIV/AIDS is making sure that the community is educated and aware. Make sure that you and your friends and family are tested regularly for HIV. Prevention is simple and straightforward, and can make all the difference.
A Future Free of AIDS
While the road to eradicating HIV is long, it is possible. Education is crucial for reducing risk of transmission, alongside decreasing the social stigma associated with the disease. Ultimately, understanding the systemic barriers for communities in poverty is the first step to implementing long-term solutions.
“Scientific advances have transformed the course of HIV in individuals. To transform the course of the epidemic, we need to expand care and prevention strategically to those who need it most,” said National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow.
Community care coordination can effectively bridge these gaps that historically HIV/AIDS patients have had to navigate by themselves. Through effective communication between nonprofits and other service providers, coordinators can ensure that patients receive the care they need. Even if programs do not offer special care for HIV-positive individuals, care coordination can make sure that clients are referred to organizations that do offer specialized treatment.
Effective community care coordination is best achieved through case management systems like ClientTrack®. ClientTrack can seamlessly integrate data between organizations, making coordination quick and easy. For HIV/AIDS patients, effective case management is critical to their survival.