As we celebrate World AIDS Day, we cannot help but reflect on the lives of loved ones lost. Additionally, we remember the stigmatism attached to this virus and the resounding impact it has had. This impact still plagues many today. Due to medical advancements in treatments, many can live comfortable lives.
This is a vast difference from the early days of the virus when so many lives were lost and so much time wasted when it was labeled a “gay man’s disease.” What this ignorance taught us is that biases have a direct impact on the quality of care, and the reaction of our society towards certain groups. Communities of color and other marginalized groups, including those within the LGBTQ communities, continued to be impacted today. Your sexual orientation should not influence the type of care you receive.
Minority communities are still being impacted and often do not receive the same level of care as others. Once again, the COVID-19 epidemic highlighted the inequalities in testing and treatment of HIV and the ability to keep the HIV virus stable and limit it from progressing. The goal is to make the virus undetectable and thereby limit its transmissibility. In order to do this, it is necessary to increase access to services like testing and treatment for those who believe they may have been exposed or at risk for contracting the virus.
The need and the objective is to decrease a new diagnosis by spreading awareness and promoting mitigation strategies. The objective should also be to end this pandemic and the inequality that still persists among Black individuals, Latinos, and other minorities. In order for this to happen, we need both our local and global societies to make prevention and treatment options accessible to all no matter their race, sexuality, income levels, or any other factors that can hinder access. Social and structural determinants of health exist and must be removed in order to improve outcomes with this virus.
Acknowledging the disparities that exist and improving them will go a long way in changing the course of this virus. AIDS can be eradicated with equal treatment of all demographics. One has to feel that they will not be ostracized because of their lifestyle, sexual orientation, or ethnic background. Medical treatments exist to delay the progression and to allow individuals to lead healthy lives. We must remain steadfast in our goal to end further transmission of the virus.
However, in certain communities, education is still needed on not just prevention, but also on the availability of treatment options. Safe practices cannot be taken for granted and medical professionals have a responsibility to ensure that all patients are treated with dignity rather than being harshly judged. Society can not afford to ignore that the last two years battling the COVID pandemic has caused progress with the fight against HIV and AIDS to trend the wrong way.
In an effort to get back on track to eradicating this disease we must all unite and fight against any barriers that unfairly impact communities of color and other marginalized communities. Our global leaders have the tools in their arsenals needed to end this disease as a world threat. According to the United Nations, the deadline to end this disease is 2030 and it is quickly approaching. The current fear is that we will not make this deadline without a concerted effort from all.
Having lost family members to this disease, the idea hits home all too well, that lack of resources, including education can have deadly impacts. A false sense of security can be a death sentence. Succumbing to biases or uneducated choices can have an impact on your health journey.
Health screenings are important and so are individual lifestyles. One should not feel judged or ashamed when seeking care or asking for advice. There are prevention tools that exist that can stop the spread, and there are treatment options that can give you your life back. These are options that some did not have in the early days of the virus. As with other diseases, you may be your best advocate, however, you are not alone.
No one wants the devastation that plagued communities when this disease first evolved. There are both advocacy groups, and many healthcare professionals that will fight for you. It will take all of us to fight together, and hold our local and world leaders within society to do all they can to eradicate HIV and AIDS once and for all.