World AIDS Day: Five reasons to care

It feels, sometimes, like HIV is the only global health issue that ever gets covered in the mainstream media. It’s everywhere, especially on December first. And every AIDS story is a plethora of numbers, heartbreaking facts, and worn faces of sick people.

As a result, we get tired of AIDS. It’s a massive epidemic, it’s horribly complex, we keep throwing money and nothing seems to help. We want AIDS to go away, and if it won’t go away, we want to just stop thinking about it.

Here’s why we shouldn’t do that:

1. Things are getting better. Putting time and money into fighting HIV has brought real results. In 2003, five percent of the people who needed ARVs got them. In 2008, that number was 42%. Deaths from HIV have dropped by 10% over the last five years. We’ve substantially reduced the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

2. But we’re not done. It’s going to take major political will to keep funding HIV efforts in the middle of a global recession. But when you save someone’s life by getting them on ARVs, you can’t just cut off the medicines. We need to make sure we sustain out treatment efforts.

3. And treating HIV is only part of the battle. We need to stop new infections, too. We’re not seeing the same progress in preventing HIV that we’re seeing in treating it. Prevention is going to need creative new approaches and the funding to support them.

4. HIV doesn’t stand alone. When you think about HIV, you inevitably start to think about the broader context of global health. AIDS is aggravated by poverty and inequality. It affects men, women, children, heterosexuals and homosexuals. It cannot be addressed without putting it in context. Paying attention to HIV teaches us about all of the health problems that affect the planet.

5. And neither do we. AIDS and Tuberculosis are the global pandemics of our time. They weaken the entire human race. When we allow them to prey on us, we lose untold amounts of strength, creativity, and energy that would have benefited everyone. Taking care of each other is our responsibility, and also our privilege. All of us, HIV+ and HIV- suffer the impact of AIDS, and we all gain when we fight it.