Today is World AIDS Day, a day to commemorate those whose lives were taken due to AIDS and to support those living with HIV today. It’s a time to look back and remember, but also to look forward to the future in hope of a cure.
Today, we have something to celebrate. This week, the New York City Health Department announced that in 2015, no babies were born in the city with HIV. That’s huge. New York is often referred to as the “ground zero” of the AIDS epidemic in the US in the 1980s. Since then, over 100,000 people have died from AIDS in New York City alone.
In the same report, the NYC Health Department noted that the number of new HIV diagnoses in the city fell below 2,500 in 2015. That’s a historic low since the beginning of the epidemic.
This morning, the city unveiled a new memorial to honor those who lost their lives due to AIDS. Even as we celebrate new milestones, we must recognize that the struggle isn’t over. More than 35-million people have succumbed to AIDS globally. In 2013, an estimated 24.7 million people were living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa – accounting for 71% of the global total. The same year, there were an estimated 1.5 million new HIV infections and 1.1 million AIDS-related deaths.
Right here in the USA, 44% of new HIV diagnoses are among African Americans – who comprise 12% of the US population. That’s a huge discrepancy. From 2005 to 2014, the number of new diagnoses among African American gay and bisexual men increased 22%. When it comes to young African American gay and bisexual men (aged 13 to 24), that number increased 87%. Since 2010, these numbers have stabilized, yet it remains clear that HIV/AIDS is not a thing of the past – especially for black men. The Center for Disease Control offers more detailed insight into this epidemic, as well as information on the work they’re doing to address it.
Numbers like this can all feel very overwhelming. Whether you’re living with HIV, know someone who is, or are simply a person who cares, being confronted with such startling facts can make one feel powerless. The Advocate has put together an awesome list of events happening around the country in honor of World AIDS Day. If you want to get involved, there’s no time like the present.