World AIDS Day 2021 focuses on the growing inequalities
December 1 marks the observance of World AIDS Day! This serves as an opportunity for people to show their support for people living with HIV/AIDS. Moreover, this is also the day to spare a thought to those who have died from an HIV-related illness.
With this year’s theme, “End inequalities. End AIDS“, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners give focus on the growing inequalities in access to essential HIV services.
This commemoration is a critical moment for the historic effort of organizations. Namely, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to end AIDS. Started in 1988, it is considered as the first-ever global health day.
As Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS said,
“This year marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported and 25 years since the establishment of UNAIDS,”
The COVID-19 pandemic becomes a colossal factor behind the elevation of cases. People living with HIV are one of the most disadvantaged sectors affected by the global crisis. This is due to lack of or limited access to prevention services, as well as clinical care and treatment.
Amid the shortfalls, HIV continues to be a major global public health issue. It has claimed over 36.3 million lives so far, according to WHO.
In the Philippines, UNAIDS estimates that there are 120,000 people living with HIV on its 2020 data. In relation to this, sexual contact remained as the predominant mode of transmission, based on the recent report of HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP).
HARP’s data also underlines the rising average number of people newly diagnosed with HIV per day. From last year’s average of 22 cases, it has surged to 33 cases, as of June 2021.
Ending the stigma
Unfortunately, the HIV stigma remains to be prevalent in society. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines, “HIV stigma is negative attitudes and beliefs about people with HIV.”
Moreover, it is the prejudice that comes with labeling an individual as part of a group that is believed to be socially unacceptable.
However, this notion should be put to an end. It’s not easy waking up every day internalizing the stigma — it creates and develops a negative self-image.
Another thing, people living with HIV may fear that once they revealed their status, they might think that the public will discriminate against or judge them.
People should be open to educating themselves to halt this existing stigma. Perhaps, it costs nothing to show support to those people who are living with HIV/AIDS. Debunking myths about their lifestyle can also be a great way to interact with others who are still clueless.
Commemorating the day
There are various ways to commemorate the 2021 World AIDS Day.
Globally, WHO and UNAIDS hold an online event “End inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics.” Participants are expected to wear a red t-shirt and light a candle. The event will feature leaders from across the AIDS response and other inspirational speakers.
Here in the Philippines, LoveYourself invites the public to its first online Love Gala. Viewers can catch it live at 5:00 PM on their Facebook page.
Let this day be a reminder that people living with HIV/AIDS are true warriors. They are survivors in their own ways fighting against the inequality, stigma, and discrimination marked in society.
May we also reflect on those we have lost to AIDS. Together, let us renew our commitment to promote HIV and AIDS awareness.
John Alfred Esmilla is an aspiring online journalist and educator. In his free time, he plays Mobile Legends and watches reality shows. A pitcher of coffee fuels him. He believes that height is just a number, so don't dare to ask it. His love language: acts of service.