November 27, 2012
This week we are commemorating World AIDS Day. I don't know about you, but this is a time of year that I really think about responsibility and accountability. By all accounts, this has been an amazing year in the HIV/AIDS world. We've seen unprecedented scientific breakthroughs. The Supreme Court affirmed the Affordable Care Act. The U.S. has hosted an extremely successful International AIDS Conference for the first time in 22 years -- a gathering made possible by the lifting of the AIDS travel ban.
Clearly the pieces are in place to end the AIDS epidemic. And yet there is still extreme doubt about whether or not we will be able to actually do it. At this time of year, rather than get caught up in the macros of our task, I find it's helpful to bring it back home. The question for me is not just what the president, the government, or any other outside entity will do. This the time of year I ask myself, "What am I going to do? How will I do my part? How will I make sure that I do whatever it is that I can contribute to bring the AIDS epidemic to an end?"
So, here's my question, my challenge, my plea to you on this twenty-fourth annual World AIDS Day. What are you going to do to end the AIDS epidemic in your sphere of influence? What you do or don't do matters. Whatever your part is, it is critically important.
You might be a person living with HIV/AIDS. Your part might be to come out about your HIV status, to add your voice to the symphony of those of us who are living our lives openly. You might be HIV negative. Your part might be to stand up against stigma and discrimination in your community and create an environment that makes it easier for people to come out. You might not know your HIV status. Your part is to find out your HIV status; knowing your HIV status should be a badge of honor. Your part might be to increase your own HIV science and treatment literacy to ensure that you'll know the answer if someone asks you a question about the new biomedical interventions, or the relationship between treatment, prevention and testing. Your part might be to help someone you know get into care or stay in care. Your part might be to convince policymakers in Washington, in statehouses and city halls to make the investments we need to make sure every American living with HIV has access to HIV treatment on demand.
My friend Tony Wafford says "Ending AIDS is like playing in a great symphony. You just have to pick out your instrument and play." We have the instruments to end the AIDS epidemic. The United States should be the first country to do so. It can be, if you and I do our part.