By: Brittany Friedel
On September 7, 2017, the CDC gave a landmark announcement about the HIV/AIDS virus. After conducting multiple studies on how the HIV virus suppressing drugs affect the amount of virus detectable in the blood stream and how this affects the rate of transmissions. It has been found that once an infected individual is receiving treatment they no longer pose a threat for transmitting the disease.
This is a huge announcement since it sheds light on what was once thought to be a dark, deadly road. Unfortunately since the HIV virus was first detected in the 1980s, until this very day the road to finding a cure has been tainted by stigma and discrimination.
We have to remember that when the HIV virus first started emerging, the vast majority of people did not understand what is was. People were terrified of contracting the virus because they didn’t know anything about it. For example, one common misconception was that contracting HIV equated to a death sentence. Today, we know this isn’t necessarily the case because of advancing medicine. The majority of the stigma today relates to thinking that the lifestyle of the people infected with HIV is the cause and is looked down on or is looked at as deserving of punishment. This stems from the original myth that HIV was only transmitted through sex. It was also considered a ‘gay man’s’ disease or punishment for drug users and sex workers at one point.
Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS stated, “Whenever AIDS has won, stigma, distrust, discrimination and apathy was on its side. Every time AIDS has been defeated, it has been because of trust, openness, dialogue between individuals and communities, family support, human solidarity and the human perseverance to find new paths and solutions.”
As he stated, AIDS is the only thing that wins when we continue to perpetuate this distrust and discrimination against people and their personal life decisions. A grim fact that UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) have found is that the majority of those who may have been infected with the HIV virus are reluctant to get tested, disclose their HIV status or take antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) due to stigma and discrimination.
What can we do to help? Spread the light. Today we know how HIV is transmitted and isn’t transmitted. We know that respect of people and their choices trumps what we think of their life choices. We should be able to see past the disease and look at the human standing in the middle of it. Let’s educate each other. We are capable of sharing news and information faster than ever before. We can harness that power by using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on, to educate our friends and family and encourage them to share the same message. Maybe today we can share a message of hope and light instead of sharing the latest viral video.
The announcement that the CDC made in September is not a cure, however it is a major step forward in reducing the amount of individuals who could become infected. Let’s do our best to spread this announcement far and wide. This is a great victory in the war on the HIV/AIDS virus. As Sidibé stated, trust and openness is what wins the war and saves the day.