Thinking of HIV/AIDS on World AIDS Day
So, I am sitting here at 1.05am on Dec 2 thinking about how I missed my chance of blogging on World AIDS Day (which is commemorated every year on Dec 1). Then I gave myself a consolation prize: it’s still Dec 1 in some parts of the world.
HIV/AIDS has been a cause very close to my heart. My interest was first piqued when I attended the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific back in 1999, when Kuala Lumpur played host. This year, I returned to the ICAAP for only the second time, this time held in Bali.
Over the years, as I talked to people about HIV/AIDS or got involved with volunteer work at the respective AIDS councils in Malaysia and Western Australia, I often find the need to “deflect” questions about my interest in the cause. One question I often get is, “Why do you even bother? You’re not living with AIDS.”
At times like this, I would spew out some statistics. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t shut them up.
Let me share some with you:
- UNAIDS estimates that at the end of 2008, there are 33.4 million people worldwide living with HIV
- Of that figure, 2.1 million are children.
- In 2008, 2 million people died of AIDS.
- 0.28 of them are children.
- In Malaysia, there has been more than 80,000 reported cases of HIV infection since 1986
More stats here.
I don’t know about you, but these numbers pull at my heart strings. Of course, these days, testing positive for HIV is no longer a life sentence. While there is no cure, the treatment now available really extends the life of a person living with HIV, and allows them to lead healthy lives too.
I work with the Youth Section in The Star – R.AGE – so my attention is often on youths. It is a scary thought to know that by next year, anyone aged 24 and below would have never lived in a world without HIV/AIDS.
Yet, despite it no longer being a majorly taboo subject (it still is in many countries and communities – but much more talked about in urban areas, I suppose), many people are surprisingly ignorant about it.
It’s not that they don’t know what it is but many people often believe that they are not at risk. It really doesn’t matter – HIV/AIDS does not discriminate and anyone – especially those that engage in at-risk activities such as sex and injecting drugs, as examples – can get infected.
In tomorrow’s R.AGE (well, today), I write the cover story on HIV testing. I got three youths – who have never ever been tested before – to take their first ever test. In my column What The Tweet, I discuss some social media campaigns that are currently ongoing for World AIDS Day.
Very exciting, these stuff. One that really interests me is Nike’s (RED) laces campaign. I have always been a fan of Product (RED) – I own a (RED) Converse shoe, a (RED) Gap belt and a (RED) Dell laptop, among other smaller items. Now, I’m going to get my hands on the laces that are part of Nike’s Lace Up, Save Lives campaign where all profits from the RM15 laces go to the Global Fund and efforts to eradicate HIV in Africa.
Besides that, Twitter also got on the bandwagon. Together with Nike and (RED), they made every Tweet which has the hashtag #red or laceupsavelives to be red in colour (this only works if you’re using the Twitter web site to read your Tweet stream). But I noticed that any Tweets with the words HIV or AIDS also pop up in red.
Anyway, I spent the day wearing a red ribbon, as I do each year on World AIDS Day. I do this in memory of the many lives that are lost and in solidarity with those living with HIV/AIDS. I also hope people come up to me and ask me about it, so that I can talk to them more about the cause.
“Happy” World AIDS Day all. Let’s make everyday at World AIDS Day in our hearts, shall we?
1.31am Malaysian time (+8 GMT)