I remember the picture well. An emaciated man lay in a hospital bed on the edge of death. It was a photo from a magazine article I saw in my Catholic high school’s library, with something about AIDS plastered across the page. I did not fully comprehend the picture, its meaning or how it might affect my life, but the image was seared into memory. That was in the mid-1980s.
After 30 years of benefits, public service announcements, cocktail parties and red ribbons, what more is there to do in the fight against HIV/AIDS?
Educate yourself. Although HIV/AIDS has been around for 30 years, a refresher on basic information about the virus never hurts. Recently, the Human Rights Campaign published a resource guide with up-to-date information. To download it, visit hrc.org/resources. It is presented in partnership with Greater Than AIDS (greaterthan.org). Another good resource for the latest information about prevention and treatment is www.hivplusmag.com.
Get tested. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that almost one in seven people living with HIV is unaware of his or her infection. The statistics are more troubling for infected youth, among whom more than 50 percent do not know they have the virus. Testing is offered in Kansas City at KC CARE Clinic (kccareclinic.org) and the Health Department of Kansas City (kcmo.gov/health/clinic-services/std), among other places.
Start treatment. The sooner that people start treatment, the likelier they are to benefit. Recent research suggests a young person in his or her 20s who begins treatment can live 51 years longer. Furthermore, treatment reduces one’s viral load, therefore reducing the risk of transmission to others.
Consider PrEP. Drug treatment is not just for those diagnosed with HIV. PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and what it means for sexual practices are controversial. Yet its potential for reducing the transmission of HIV demands careful consideration. If you want more information about PrEP, visit the CDC’s website: cdc.gov.
Fight stigma. People living with HIV/AIDS face discrimination in a variety of ways. The Sero Project (www.seroproject.com) works to end “the wrongful use of one’s HIV positive status in a criminal prosecution.” Its website lists ways that those who are infected can protect themselves from unjust prosecution. Both Missouri and Kansas have laws that target those infected with HIV.
HIV/AIDS is not going away any time soon. Neither should we. There is always more to do in the fight.
Kyle Danner is an organizer for the LGBT-Affirmative Therapists Guild of Greater Kansas City. He received a master’s degree in counseling and guidance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.“