Today marks a major milestone. And no, we're not talking about Cyber Monday.
Today marks 25 years of the world commemorating World AIDS Day. And yes, this also means we can celebrate 25 years of progress. Since the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, more people have been surviving as detection and treatment have improved.
However, today is also a day to note what still must be done to save more lives. Just here in the US, over 1.1 million people are living with HIV... And 18% of them don't even know it. And while the plurality of these people are gay and bisexual men, women, communities of color, and even heterosexuals are far from immune from HIV. And to make matters worse, infection rates are rising rapidly among Americans aged 13-24.
So what can we do about this? Clearly, we can't forget that AIDS is still around... And still hurting people. In recent years, far too many of us have been lulled into a false sense of complacency. After all, "it's not a big deal any more" since "it can be treated".
Yes, it can be treated... If it's detected early enough. And even then, life as one knows it forever changes upon contracting HIV. We can't forget that more people have been able to survive HIV contraction due to the "cocktail" drugs now available. And let's just say that those "cocktails" are neither cheap nor easy.
That won't be changing any time soon. Sadly, the current austerity regime has forced budget cuts upon federal HIV/AIDS assistance & prevention programs. This has only led to further pressure on private AIDS charities that were already being greatly pressured by the aftermath of the Great Recession.
We have seen progress in the last 25 years, but that progress only materialized after we as a society realized we could no longer allow our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to suffer in silence. We can't afford to let people fall back into that trap of silence 25 years later. We can't afford to undo the past 25 years of progress simply because it's "too inconvenient" and/or "too expensive" to save lives.
Today, we need to think about the cost of silence. And then, we need to speak up and take action. Oh, and we need to educate. The last thing we need now is silence.