December is HIV/AIDS Awareness Month, a time to remind everyone about the importance of getting tested. Over the course of the month, organizations will emphasize that testing, treatment, and prevention of HIV are keys to ensuring healthy communities.
Within the LGBTQ+ Veteran community, HIV is among a number of health disparities present in comparison with LGBTQ+ civilian and heterosexual Veteran peers. Gay and bisexual men & transgender women Veterans of color are disproportionately affected by HIV and STIs. According to a 2016 study, transgender Veterans in VA care were nearly five times more likely to be HIV+ compared to non-transgender Veterans.
The prevalence of HIV among LGBTQ+ Veterans becomes more perturbing considering HIV among Veterans is already higher than in the civilian population.
Perhaps one the most significant factors in encouraging testing is the fact that 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today but about 14%, or 1 in 7, don’t know it. CDC data has indicated that the estimated number of new HIV infections has leveled off in recent years but this reported stabilization is too high thereby reinforcing the need for increased action to end America’s HIV epidemic.
The estimates also show that effective prevention and treatment are not adequately reaching those who would benefit the most such as men who have sex with men, transgender persons, African Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos, all of whom are disproportionately affected. In fact, undiagnosed infections were highest among African Americans, followed by Hispanics/Latinos, and whites.
Furthermore, according to UNAIDS, the risk of acquiring HIV is:
- 26 times higher among gay men and other men who have sex with men.
- 29 times higher among people who inject drugs.
- 30 times higher for sex workers.
- 13 times higher for transgender people.
With all the data coming out continuously, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Add to it the increasing prevalence of COVID-19 nationally and globally.
HIV/AIDS Awareness Month seeks to encourage communities to engage in outreach by raising awareness of the importance of testing for HIV. While there have been strides in developing prevention methods, HIV continues to be a global epidemic that took around 690,000 people worldwide in 2019.
So, what can you do to engage in the fight against HIV/AIDS? The first thing is to get informed.
December 1st is known as World AIDS Day which was first observed in 1988 and aimed to bring people’s attention to the worldwide challenges and consequences of the epidemic, in order to prevent the spread of HIV and improve the lives of people living with HIV. Every year after, organizations and individuals across the world work to bring attention to the HIV epidemic, increase awareness and knowledge, speak out against HIV stigma, and call for an increased response toward Ending the HIV Pandemic: A Plan for America.
This year, the theme for 2020 is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience & Impact.” You can find more detailed information on the theme HERE. For World AIDS Day 2020, the VA released a new video on three core steps: Test, Prevent, Treat. You can see it below.
The following also comes from the VA’s World AIDS Day page:
“World AIDS Day is the perfect time to reflect on how far we have come and what we still need to do to end HIV once and for all. This year’s theme, Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact is inspiring for VA. Our Veterans know a lot about resilience, and we are inspired by their strength. We need that strength to keep up our efforts to end HIV. VA is currently working on three core steps: Test, Prevent, Treat. These three steps are key to making an impact on the HIV epidemic…
“So this World AIDS Day, we’re asking our Veterans for their help in getting tested, practicing prevention, and, if you are living with HIV, getting and staying on treatment. That’s it: Test, Prevent, Treat. With these three things, we can end HIV but only if we do it together.”
That all said, below are resources you can use to spread the word for not only December 1st but anytime because HIV is still without a vaccine or cure and, as such, we’ve all got to do our part in raising awareness. Until that time comes, there’s work to be done.
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention HIV
- Greater Than AIDS
- Health Resources & Service Administration Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program
- Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation HIV/AIDS
- HIV.gov: LGBT / LGBT Health
- Mayo Clinic HIV/AIDS
- Medscape HIV/AIDS
- National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD & TB
- TheBody: The HIV/AIDS Resource
- Trevor Support Center: HIV/AIDS
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) HIV
- World AIDS Day
- World Health Organization (WHO) HIV/AIDS