World AIDS Day - ten ways to get to zero!
November 11, 2011
HIV is a worldwide epidemic, and it’s affecting every part of our local community; in Indiana, there were 9,837 people living with HIV/AIDS in 2010. This year, World AIDS Day on December 1 is all about “Getting to Zero” – that is, zero HIV-related deaths, zero new infections, and zero stigma. Here are ten ways you can help observe World AIDS Day, make a difference, and help your community get to zero:
- Talk about it openly and honestly. HIV isn’t something to be ashamed of, but there’s a lot of stigma surrounding the disease. Just being open to talking about it can make people less afraid and more proactive in protecting themselves and their loved ones.
- Wear a condom. This is the best way of protecting yourself – and it can be the most fun! Ribbed, magnum, ultra-thin - there are hundreds of different kinds of condoms from which to choose, and there’s a perfect condom for every situation. Don’t forget about insertive/female condoms! Many public health, family planning, and HIV/AIDS service organizations give out quality condoms for free.
- Get tested. Many people don’t show symptoms of HIV for 10 or more years; nation-wide, one in five people don’t know that they’re HIV+. The only way to know for sure is to get tested, and many places just need a swab – no blood necessary! Remember that getting tested means checking in to see if you’ve been doing a good job; testing doesn’t prevent the disease from happening. The Damien Center has free and confidential HIV, STD, and pregnancy testing. (www.damien.org)
- Get involved. There’s dozens of events each year that you can participate in to raise awareness – and many are listed in your local community calendars! Some events, like Dining Out for Life, make it easy to participate. Many local businesses, like Just Pop In located in Broad Ripple and the airport, donate proceeds from sales year-round to local HIV/AIDS service organizations. (Just Pop In is helping The Damien Center get to zero on December 1 – check it out at justpopinonline.com!)
- Educate yourself. Talk to your doctor or a local HIV/AIDS service organization to learn more about the disease. Know that it’s not transmitted through casual contact like hugging or coughing, but rather through an exchange of body fluids like semen, blood, vaginal fluid, or breast milk. Go to AIDS.gov for easy HIV basics!
- Drink in moderation. Consuming alcohol can impair your judgment, leading to unsafe sex or other decisions you might not normally make. Have fun, but always keep a clear mind!
- If you’re HIV+, be sure to take your medications on-time every time. This helps reduce the amount of virus in your body, which also lowers the chances you’ll transmit HIV. Just remember that you can still transmit HIV to your partner even if you have a low viral load – so always use a condom.
- Volunteer. It’s one of the best ways to see the impact you’re making in the lives of people infected or affected by the disease. Most HIV/AIDS service organizations couldn’t survive without the help of generous volunteers!
- Donate. Volunteering goes a long way toward helping people, but monetary contributions are essential. With funders cutting back on their grant money due to the recession, nonprofits helping HIV/AIDS patients are relying on individual contributions more than ever.
- Spread the word. Educating a friend about HIV/AIDS could save their life – and you might never know it. Even a simple Facebook status or tweet about wearing a condom or getting tested helps raise awareness. Connect with organizations like The Damien Center on Facebook or through Twitter @damiencenter for ways you can help spread the word and get Indiana down to zero!