In the 1980s and 90s, even into the treatment era of this century, I lost so many friends as a result of HIV that I eventually had to stop counting. Some died, not as a result of the ravages of the virus but because they were unable to cope with their diagnosis and chose to end their own lives. These memories are with me all year round. On World AIDS Day I try to give myself the time to think of these friends and mourn them.
But we have not yet reached the point where World AIDS Day is just for remembrance.
In the UK alone another 6000 people were diagnosed with HIV last year. Worldwide, almost 40 million people are now living with HIV. Although we have seen considerable increase in access to treatment, too many people still live without access to the life-saving drugs that many of us take for granted.
The prospects for those of us living with HIV are much better today than they were 20 years ago but all too often we face stigma, whether it’s rejection by our families, a careless comment on social media or purposeful hate-fuelled rhetoric. Stigma is fuelled by ignorance.
I am proud to have joined the team at NAM aidsmap, whose work does so much to dispel ignorance and to give people living with HIV, and their healthcare providers, the information that they need to live full and healthy lives. Every year millions of people come to our aidsmap website to get clear, honest, reliable information about HIV and AIDS.
The support we get from the public, those who benefit either directly or indirectly from our bulletins, our website, our treatment information and all of the other resources we develop to support people around the world, helps to make this work possible.
If you are able to, please consider supporting NAM’s work this World AIDS Day by making a donation via this site. Your support will help NAM to continue to provide information, advice and guidance to millions of people worldwide.
I look forward to the day when we hit zero new HIV infections. I look forward to the day when the lives of people living with HIV are not blighted by ignorant attitudes. I look forward to the day when we mark World AIDS Day by honouring those we lost, who were not able to benefit from the life-saving treatment we now have. We’re not there yet but I hold on to the belief that day will come.
Executive Director, NAM.