By Stephfon Gudiry
World AIDS day is Today, December 1st each year is set aside to give homage and hope to the progress and the history of this epidemic. A documented 1.2 million cases of people living with HIV in the U.S. only 40 percent are taking their medications regularly (based on CDC report released Tuesday). Atlanta health officials documented that only about 1 in 4 of those infected with the disease is properly taking their medications, primarily due to their lack of being tested for the virus. Living with HIV and AIDS in 2011 might seem a stark reality, a stigmatized existence, or a medical diagnosis that can be overcome.
In Jacksonville, Florida considered to be part of the “bible belt”, some of its 821,000 residents experience the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Fear of exposure and fear of stigma with this virus are only aiding in its epidemic. Jacksonville’s own Duval County documented a 33% increase in HIV infections in early 2011. Donna Fuchs, executive director of Northeast Florida AIDS Network, found it hard to set up her organization back in 2000. “HIV carries a huge stigma in our city,” stated Fuchs. (CNN.com) One property owner blatantly told Fuchs that he didn’t want people with AIDS coming into his office building. Fuchs is not the only AIDS organization on her block but goes on to describe the need to disguise the building, one example of this was taking away the red ribbon on their sign, to appease their clients. Todd Reese, associate director of Health Care Center operations at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, “No one walks into any building or floor that has any association with HIV.”(CNN.com)
In light of the negativity hat is brought in the narrow-minded scope in places like Jacksonville, there are still some who find a way to light the path for others to live. Veronica Hicks, 50 Jacksonville native, HIV positive and she is creating a positive change in her church by starting a support group and testing awareness ministry. Hicks felt that as long as she embraced her status and was open she could create change.
The Center for Disease Control also reported that about 28 percent of individuals infected are properly medicating themselves in order to keep the virus at low levels. Through early detection comes the ability to fight the virus and live a longer fuller life. Magic Johnson, former NBA star turn HIV/AIDS advocate after being infect for 20 years, told CNN: “Early detection saved my life! I’ve done everything I was supposed to do to be here 20 years later. Back 20 years ago there was only one drug now there’s over 30 drugs to take care of you and prolong your life.” Johnson spoke about having the proper frame of mind and saying that mental acceptance was essential in defeating the disease and prolonging his life!
If you are interested in learning more about HIV and AIDS check out One.org or WorldAIDSday.org as well. GET TESTED and KNOW YOUR STATUS!