While it's true that most people know by now that HIV/AIDS poses a threat, World AIDS Day, which takes place today, attempts to focus the world's attention on this disease for a day and show just how big a threat still persists.
There has been progress in combating the disease since it was first identified in the early 80s, but HIV/AIDS remains a major public health issue. Over 33 million people are currently living with HIV worldwide, almost 70 percent of who live in sub-Saharan Africa. People with HIV are living longer though, in part because of the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy. To highlight the need for universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, care and prevention, the theme of this year's World AIDS Day is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights.’
Bloggers globally have used World AIDS Day as an opportunity to share their thoughts on not only this disease, but the significance of this day. Many of these blogs are included on Global Voices Google map of HIV-positive bloggers and groups who blog about the disease, which has been updated for World AIDS Day. Charlie Dale, blogging on My Journey with Judy… from the United States, reflects on the significance of World AIDS Day.
“Somehow over the years I guess I have grown complacent to what this day really means, if in all honesty anything to the masses. In the beginning it was in all the news stories, papers and events that this day was approaching and awareness and attention was brought to this monster killer.
Over the years though the media like the rest of us I guess has grown overly weary of a problem that is still fairly rampant and in the minds of the media VERY old news sadly to say…Long term survivors like myself I guess have grown weary, worn and tired. Many of us are just trying to survive day to day and make something of ourselves and our lives.”
But Claire Keeton, blogging for South Africa’s Sunday Times, says there is still an important role for World AIDS Day.
“It’s that time of year when Christmas decorations flood the shops and red AIDS ribbons come out. Tuesday is World AIDS Day.
Some people with HIV/AIDS and activists object to World AIDS Day – essentially saying it allows people to ignore the epidemic the rest of the year, as long as they remember it for a single day.
Paying lip service. Window dressing. Look at the Onion cover in that light.
From my side, World AIDS Day does have advantages. It’s the one time of the year that all media make space for HIV/AIDS stories.”
Many bloggers have done just that, made space on their blogs to share their experiences about this disease. Aderyn Verwood from Germany, blogging on Vintage Verwood, says that until her good friend was diagnosed with HIV, she didn’t pay much attention to it:
“Like most people, I knew about HIV, but the role it played in my life was too insignificant to ever become more than a distant, abstract threat that seemingly did not belong to my environment. Now, no day goes past that I don’t think of it consciously, that I don’t hope for improvement of already existing therapies or for a breakthrough in scientific research, so that a cure might be found…To my friend, I’d just like to say: I hope that many decades from now, we will sit together, old and wrinkly, laughing about the times when we were young. I love you.”
Others took a less personal approach and blogged to raise awareness and spread the facts. Jessica Joseph, blogging on Alien in The Caribbean from Trinidad and Tobago, wrote a three-part exploration of sex and sexuality in the Caribbean in the days leading up to World AIDS Day. In this first part, she looks at where the shame and secrets regarding sex come from:
“Some of the questions I would like to investigate are: Where exactly did our prudery and hypocrisy come from? What are the elements of sexual attraction? What are the dynamics of gender and sexual orientation? Some of the resolutions I would to make are: Sexuality and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. Good sex is also safe sex. HIV/Aids is a viral representation of a deeper syndrome and its cure lies in a holistic approach to sexuality even it means the painful re-breaking and re-setting of a bone (no pun intended) that was badly cast for a very long time.”
Some bloggers used art to express how they feel on World AIDS Day. Last year Richard Kearns, blogging on HAVVACC, wrote this poem in honor of the day and says he plans to write a new poem this year. Sinthalunda, a poet in Malawi, posts this poem:
“Here from this musty village
Come golden stars
Who dance the same rhythm
From far beyond the horizon;
Their light sound gets louder
As they walk to school
For the beat of lessons
Round the circle of subjects.
From this forgotten compound
Come complex joys
From children whose nose-dust
Has been cleaned by wind's awareness.
For now, the way of knowledge
In the world of education
Has taught them to sense
The voice of silenced victims.”
To encourage more bloggers to write about HIV/AIDS on all 365 days of the year, not just World AIDS Day, this past summer Rising Voices released “Blogging Positively,” a collection of case studies, interviews and best practices about citizen media related to HIV/AIDS. The guide highlights leaders in the HIV-positive community, contains tips for workshop facilitators and teachers and provides resources to help new bloggers get started.