This year marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, which takes place every year on December 1. Though the impact of HIV and AIDS is felt by millions of people globally every day, this particular day can help bring much-needed attention to the disease.
The theme for this year's World AIDS Day is “Lead – Empower – Deliver,” highlighting the political leadership required to truly combat the disease. While the global percentage of adults living with HIV has leveled off since 2000, 33 million people are still living with the virus and there are nearly 7,500 new infections each day. Rates of new HIV infections are also rising in many countries, such as China, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Russia, and Vietnam. AIDS is also taking its toll — 2 million people died of the disease last year.
Blogs from around the world are putting faces to these statistics, sharing stories of caring for those with HIV/AIDS, how the disease impacts people's daily lives, and the stigma that accompanies the disease. These first-hand accounts show both the progress that has been made in fighting this disease, and how much work still needs to be done.
In Poz For Life 20-year-old Russell blogs from Australia about being HIV positive in hopes that it will encourage others to get tested for sexually transmitted infections and to play it safe. In his first post he recalls being tested for HIV and the awful waiting period before receiving the results. Here is how he found out he was HIV positive:
“I got there [the doctor's office] around 10:30am and went straight in, it was like they where waiting for me ready to take my soul and toss it out the 4th story. I went into his office and I sat down, then I hear ‘Russell am sorry to say but the test for HIV is positive.’ I froze for a few seconds and just looked amazed. What felt like a lifetime of silence was around 30 seconds. I said ‘I was thinking it might come back that way.’ I can't believe that I said that, really the first words out of my mouth was I thought it might come back that way.”
The AZUR Development organization's blog AIDS Rights Congo, a Rising Voices project, advocates for the rights of HIV-positive people. Their posts show the discrimination and stigma faced by those living with the virus in Congo. One post talks about the life of “Bernadette,” a young woman who is a clothing vendor at the Tié-Tié market in Pointe-Noire. Her life changes when her friend at the market divulges Bernadette's HIV positive status.
“At the market, her neighbors immediately desert their tables; which even attract the attention of those responsible for managing the market, who, conscious of the fact that having a table at the market is a difficult thing, are surprised to find empty tables around her. The situation has put everyone on alert, and those passing from far away can hear the neighbor’s gossip on the fact that she is a woman infected with HIV. However there are no outward signs that Bernadette is sick, one cannot read it on her face. The illness is not at an advanced stage and she is not on ARV [Antiretroviral] treatment. She is simply a normal young woman.
In a setback, traumatized by the situation, she stops her little shop.”
Juan Carlos, a 29-year-old from Ecuador, blogs about coping with being HIV positive. In one post he talks about the importance of balance and the benefits of talking to someone about what you're going through.
Hay mucha gente seropositiva que obvia la ayuda de los psicólogos a lo largo de sus vidas. Personalmente, si hay alguien que escuche o lea esto… yo creo que siempre es bueno conversar con un psicólogo cada cierto tiempo, hace que los días más sombríos se vuelvan más claros y nos ayuda a sobre llevar mejor nuestra vida con este virus y nuestros demás problemas.
Pinoy Poz, who lives in Quezon City in the Philippines, blogs about living with HIV and the difficulties of disclosing his HIV status. He came out about being gay at the age of 21, but nine years later went “back in the closet” after finding out he was HIV positive. In this post he talks about how telling people he's HIV positive hasn't been as bad as he feared, but it's still hard.
“Honestly, I’ve been too chicken to tell some of my other contacts myself. And when I say contacts, I mean… okay, sexual contacts. So I did the next best thing. I backtracked through my sexual contacts up to more than a year ago, and had a friend contact them anonymously, to advise them to get tested for HIV. The reactions varied from asking who the sender was, replying to the anonymous number that they’d just gotten tested, sending foul messages to their alleged stalker, or most commonly, assuming that they did get the message, not replying. But I felt that was as decent a warning as I could manage.”
There are anecdotes similar to these posts from all over the world. This Global Voices Google map of HIV-positive bloggers highlights more voices of openly HIV-positive bloggers and caretakers, and other citizen media related to HIV/AIDS. So take a look and read their amazing stories. The map is embeddable, so you can add it to your Web site or blog. Though it is being launched in conjunction with World AIDS Day, the map will continue to be updated throughout the year.