by Derek S. Hernandez
There’s a Valentines Day, a Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, which we just celebrated a couple of days ago; but who would have thought 30 years ago that there would be an AIDS day? I guess if something becomes so big we as a nation have to create a “day” out of it. Except, World AIDS Day is global! That’s what’s so amazing about it. World AIDS Day was first celebrated in 1988. It is a day for people to come together and remember those who have passed away from HIV–AIDS, to support those who are currently infected, and to recognize that HIV is still around and is not an epidemic, but a pandemic. HIV is NOT going away. As a matter of fact, it is increasing in certain areas in the United States, like big urban centers (New York, Los Angeles, etc.) and especially in the south (New Orleans, Atlanta, etc.). The highest HIV prevalence rate from contintent-to-continent and region is as follows: Africa, South-East Asia, Americas, Europe, Western Pacific, and Eastern Mediterranean, respectively (World Health Organization 2011).
With 34 million people living with AIDS worldwide and 1.7 million mortality rate, World AIDS Day is integral (WHO 2011). HIV prevention personnel, HIV–AIDS providers, and public health experts are needed and tremendously appreciated. December 1 is a day to recognize these people and spread awareness of this pandemic that is not going away.
What’s going on in the UCLA–Los Angeles area on World AIDS Day 2013? Since Los Angeles is a huge urban center as I have mentioned above, we can expect a lot! A lot of community-based organizations are hosting events. And the participation rate should be relatively high because December 1 lands on a Sunday this year. Just to name a few, AIDS Project LA (APLA) will be hosting a county-wide food drive to collect non-perishable foods and hygiene items for those Angelinos who are living with HIV–AIDS; Gospel Concert at the Oasis of Peace Christian Fellowship Church; World AIDS Day Vigil at the West Hollywood Park; Annual Lighting at the Abbey in West Hollywood.
It’s interesting to think that HIV/AIDS activists and advocates are usually part of the LGBTQ community and–or are burdened by the virus–disease themselves. Since HIV–AIDS is a pandemic, we need everyone on board. And especially since HIV–AIDS can infect anyone and everyone, this is more reason for people outside of the LGBTQ community to get involved. How can we (as the picture above displays) “think globally” yet “act locally”? What’re you doing to help with the pandemic? one of the simplest things that you can do is to get tested yourself (yes, even if you’re at a low-risk), and more importantly, encourage those who are at low- and high-risk to get tested, follow-up with them, and if they are positive, lead them to care and help create a community for them to keep them in care. I would love to hear what you did for World AIDS Day 2013—please tweet us @DigitalHBX (follow us, too), and–or post on our Facebook wall at fb.com/digitalhbx
Happy World AIDS Day 2013!
About Derek S. Hernandez
Derek S. Hernandez is an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles, with a major in Sociocultural Anthropology. He is a student involved in interdepartmental research under Sean Young, Ph.D., M.S., at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine. Derek studies the behavioural aspects of HIV-positive men and researches new implementations of HIV prophylaxis via social media. Derek is passionate about the dynamics of LGBTQ Healthcare and ensuring accessibility and retention of care for patients, especially HIV–AIDS patients. He is notably proud for holding two Student Intern positions at UCLA Health System and currently at Cedars–Sinai Medical Center where he works alongside physicians and nurses to ensure patient safety and adherence to quality measures. Derek plans ultimately to earn his Doctorate in Nursing Practice and pursue a career as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. You may contact Derek directly at firstname.lastname@example.org