Today is World AIDS Day.
As someone who is an advocate within the LGBT community & who tries to educate folks about HIV/AIDS & getting tested year round, it makes me sad that it feels (as with all other “world whatever day”s) that people don’t think much about this til December 1st rolls around. But today I had an amazing opportunity to reach out to people in a way I might not have before, so I’m thankful for that, Alhamdulillah.
Know your status.
I cannot say this enough. Around the world, every twelve seconds, someone contracts HIV. Every sixteen seconds, someone dies of AIDS. One in five people do not know they live with this disease. Medication is prohibitively expensive ($56 a day)…but testing and prevention are absolutely not. Find out where you can get free testing and free condoms. The sooner you know, the sooner you can do something about it. The safer you and your loved ones and partners will be.
No one is immune from AIDS. Not straight people, not white people, not rich people, not women. It is not a gay man’s disease; in fact, the fastest growing population of folks with HIV/AIDS are young women of color. According to the UN, AIDS is the leading cause of death around the world for women of reproductive age. I know among Muslims (and other communities of faith to which I’ve belonged) a lot of people don’t like to talk/think about it because we assume that due to the way relationships and marriages are handled, that means we are safe from all STDs. But being Muslim does not make us immune. It doesn’t make us immune from infidelity, domestic violence, or rape, and it sure as heck does not make us immune from HIV or AIDS. I know we prefer to trust people but this is your health and your life we are talking about, and people treat this issue with such shame and secrecy. It is better to be safe and to know for yourself for sure.
The website http://hivtest.org shows, for those living in the United States, where your nearest testing centers are, what methods they use, and whether they are free or paid.
Get yourself tested. Get your friends tested. It doesn’t have to be a matter of outing folks; every time a free test clinic day rolls around, I send everyone I know. It doesn’t mean I’m broadcasting to the world that I’m at risk or trying to assume or broadcast to the world that you are at risk. Only you know that. It’s not about shaming folks or making them feel put on the spot. HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence and having the disease or being at risk and needing to get tested is not a value judgment on your worth as a human being.
It’s about saving your life.
Additionally, here are some facts about who has HIV/AIDS, how to tell if you are at risk, and when to get tested. If you are wondering if you’re at risk or not, it’s better to get tested. If you’ve had unprotected sex or your barrier method failed, or you’ve experienced sexual assault, or you’ve used unsterilized injection equipment, or you’ve possibly been in contact with contaminated blood, get yourself tested regularly. HIV does not show up immediately, so it’s best to get tested more than once if you’re at risk. If you are at risk, it’s recommended to get tested once every six months or once a year. If you are not at risk, you should still be tested when being with new partners or as part of routine medical care. Some women believe that HIV testing is part of their yearly exams; this is not usually the case. Do not be afraid to ask your doctor to run a full battery of STD tests or to ask what specific STDs you are tested for. HIV testing now is usually easy, quick, and non-invasive. In the U.S., there are approximately 40,000 new cases of infection each year and about half of those are young people. Many do not know they have the disease. Around the world, there are an estimated 33 million people living with AIDS; in 2007, it killed an estimated 2.1 million people, including over 300,000 children.
HIV/AIDS is everyone’s problem.