When it comes to World AIDS Day, nothing is more important than hearing different perspectives from different walks of life. We have a lovely community of readers who are always willing to give us their thoughts, opinions and musings on what it means to live with HIV, be affected by HIV or work in the HIV field. We've assembled a collection of thought-provoking World AIDS Day-themed blogs as well as a diverse array of answers to some burning questions in our community. Make sure to peruse, ponder and participate in this year's World AIDS Day "Perspectives" section!
World AIDS Day in Retrospect: Videos, Interviews and Advocacy
"Count us in the right to live a life free from violence."
Getting to Zero in D.C. Rally Draws a Crowd
"The press conference and rally was organized to demand that Mayor [of Washington, D.C., Vincent] Gray and his Commission on HIV/AIDS write and implement a comprehensive HIV Care Plan that mirrors the National HIV/AIDS Strategy."
In the Arms of the Angel Are Ribbons
"It is apparent that today, and for all World AIDS Days past and present, it would seem that: 'The Ribbon IS Enough.' Enough to commemorate and memorialize those who have died, those who are suffering in silence, to bring awareness to the stigma, to get re-focused, to draw strength from one another and comfort one another."
I Never Imagined Seeing an AIDS-Free Generation
"AIDS was buying condoms before losing my virginity. AIDS was walking for GMHC and getting tested for HIV once I became sexually active. From 1998 and on, AIDS was the hole in my heart where my Tito Danny used to live. It was real and vicious, pernicious, ugly, and an established fact of the world. I had hope that could change but in some far-off future where hoverboards and robot housekeepers awaited us."
World AIDS Day / Día Mundial del SIDA 2012
"This is my message to the whole world about what World AIDS Day means to me. / Mi mensaje para el mundo entero y lo que el dia mundial del SIDA significa para mi."
Where Has Your Red Ribbon Gone?
"To me, this ribbon is resilient, like this community (to borrow from Angels in America, again, you are fabulous creatures, each and everyone), and like some friendships. So this year, take your red ribbon down from wherever you keep it the other 364 days of the year. If you don't have one, find one. If you're not sure where to find one, call your local AIDS service organization. While on the phone, or there in person, make a donation. Every little bit helps ..."
I Have HIV and Current Laws Say I Am a Criminal
"According to the current criminal statutes in Missouri I am considered a felon. It does not matter that I disclose my HIV status to another person, and it does not matter that I use protection. As stated in the law itself, these things are no defense."
Living in the Afterlife With HIV
"I consider myself so very lucky, because I get to feel that end-of-life peace that comes with mortality, and I now have my whole natural lifetime to enjoy it. Had I not gotten this pink slip from God laying me off from life, I would probably now be a chain-smoking, arrogant pretentious Hollywood asshole, hating my life and hating who I had become. And the miracle wasn't just what happened, but also when it happened."
I Am Proud
"I am proud that I say things other people think but don't have the guts to say, because they are worried about what other people think. People will like you, or they won't. If they only like you because you shut up about how you feel, how TRUE is that? It is my goal to make a difference; to warn people that HIV is more real than the zombie Apocalypse."
AIDS-Free Generation? The View From Canada
"Recent advancements in our understanding of HIV transmission, treatment, prevention and testing are changing the landscape of our response to HIV and generating a significant amount of optimism. The buzz at the International AIDS Conference this past July in Washington, D.C., was that we may now be able to achieve an "AIDS-free generation" where first, no one will be born with the virus; second, that as people age, they will be at a far lower risk of becoming infected than they are today; and third, that if they do acquire HIV, they will get treatment that keeps them healthy and prevents them from transmitting the virus to others."
Got a Ribbon?
"I am past the stigma, when it comes to my own personal HIV. However, I am NOT past the stigma others are going through. I am NOT past the stigma which keeps people living in shame, secrecy and fear. I made a promise at this conference that I would begin speaking out, and do everything I could to raise awareness about this disease, particularly when it comes to breaking down the walls of stigma."
Striving for Zero
"Why would current generations of 'normal people' want to walk that path of having AIDS or HIV? Why would they want to risk losing family, friends, possibly their jobs and housing? I know it's illegal for employers to fire you for being HIV positive. It's also illegal for people to drive drunk. It still happens. So while our torches are still lit, while we still have the will and the drive to parade, to campaign, to speak our truth, listen. Listen well. ZERO is achievable."
Don't Shut Up, Don't Give Up; Stand Up and Speak!
"Stop being ashamed that you are living, LIVING, with an illness. I don't care what you did to get infected or how it happened because that can't change; but what can change are the coming generations and YOU can be a part of that change. I can't think if a better legacy than to be able to look back and say 'Yeah; I did my part in that.'"
"Give or take a year or two and depending on your personal history, we've been living and dying with HIV and AIDS for 30 years. Every year on World AIDS Day, we remember those who fell. However, in this morally topsy-turvy world, we don't always remember those who picked up our men, wiped their arses and their tears and unselfishly gave help, humanity and dignity during what for many were last weeks and months."
There are a lot of burning questions in the HIV community, and we hit the streets for answers on a range of topics for World AIDS Day 2012.
"Cure" is no longer a four-letter word. But funding for vital research does not match the expansive need. An eventual cure can seem like a pipe dream when facing the day-to-day realities of providing services for people still living with HIV/AIDS. We asked a number of advocates around the U.S. whether the passage of time had fanned the flames of their hope for a cure, or cooled it down.
"I have more hope today for a cure for HIV. The advocates and the activist community, and researchers: What we have learned from this virus, and the mechanism and the pathogenesis of this virus -- because, as we know, there is no cure for the virus today -- but with our understanding of HIV and its mutation, I truly believe we are eventually going to have a vaccine that can be a cure and a preventative treatment for people so that those who are negative can stay negative and those who are positive can eventually be cured. I'm very hopeful."
For the second year in a row, the theme for World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." For World AIDS Day 2011, we asked people living with HIV/AIDS and advocates to share what steps they thought were needed to reach zero new HIV cases, zero deaths and zero HIV-related discrimination. This year we're turning the tables: After several decades of awareness, education and research, what factors keep this reality out of the world's grasp?
"A cure. The only way to get to zero is to make sure it's not happening anymore. Once we develop a vaccine, people will get it like chicken pox: You get vaccinated for it while you're a kid, thus you won't be exposed to it when you're a little bit older. If we're talking about really getting down to zero, I think prevention is always going to be part of it. But part of a comprehensive preventive approach is actually developing a vaccine so that we can no longer pass it person-to-person."
For some advocates in our community, working in HIV/AIDS is a matter of their own survival. Others come to the community through avenues they never could have imagined. Still others could not see themselves working anywhere else once they'd delved into the complexities of this work. We asked people working in different areas of the HIV/AIDS field, and all across the U.S.: What would you say to someone who has just begun working in the HIV/AIDS community?
"I would say, 'Welcome. You are needed, your expertise and talent is desired, and we need new warriors in the fight against HIV.' Short and to the point. I really think that, if you are new to this field, find a mentor, someone who has been in this field a little longer. Latch onto them, soak up all their knowledge, and bring your own."
The 30-plus years of the HIV epidemic have been marked by devastating loss; tireless work; infuriating inertia; passionate, challenging collaborations; and radical advances. But in the midst of all this, how often do we pause and reflect on the examples that people living with and working in HIV/AIDS have set for the rest of the world, individually and as a collective? We offered more than a dozen advocates the opportunity to do just that; and we hope you will too, as you read their answers to the question: As a member of the HIV community, what are you most proud of?
"I would say I'm most proud of working collectively with the Department of Health to get a transgender category listed into their surveillance data, so that's probably my proudest moment. And also, just being an individual of trans experience and being at the table, so that our voice is heard. Because I'm not just my voice; I'm the voice of a thousand in the trans community that oftentimes are not at the table."
World AIDS Day is a time for the whole world to talk about how we can achieve the goal of "getting to zero" new infections, zero new AIDS-related deaths, and zero stigma. As the one platform where the whole world can converse at the same time, the Internet has become one of the most active gathering places on World AIDS Day. Celebrities, politicians, comedians and community based organizations all shared their thoughts and messages on World AIDS Day, and we compiled just a few to show you what happens when awareness goes viral.
"Change things for women = achieving an #AIDS-free future. Only then will we see an end to new #HIV infections in kids."
Anger is a natural. For some of us, it is how we tap into our sadness, deal with our frustration, and it's what gets some of us up in the morning. When dealing with HIV, anger is part of life: anger with doctors who don't listen, first dates that never call back, service providers supplying endless paperwork, politicians that lie, medications with side effects, a media that ignores HIV, and employers who discriminate. Yet with all this fuel for the fire, we live in a culture where we often try to suppress each other's anger by telling everyone to calm down all the time. So what are we supposed to do with all of our anger?
United in Anger is a 93-minute documentary that will be shown across the country this year as part of World AIDS Day 2012. Leading up World AIDS Day, Visual AIDS created a tumblr called Wisdom in Being United In Anger that uses images and quotes from the film as well as timeline stills, screen shots of touching moments, and memorials to those who passed away. We wanted to share the wisdom in being united in anger.