World AIDS Day.

Every year on December 1st, World AIDS Day is memorialized and many take today to talk about HIV/AIDS and support related organizations. While we’ve come a long way over the last few decades (in large part because of AIDS activists), we still have a very long way to go! There’s still a stigma left and health care continues to be something people have to fight for.

Even decades after AIDS first started appearing in the United States and around the world, there are a lot of politics to consider with treating and potentially ending the spread of HIV/AIDS. Amy S. Patterson and Mark Daku wrote about the politics of AIDS for The Washington Post today and highlighted the fact that the stigma of being HIV+ and being scared of others finding out is a large part of why some people all over the world aren’t taking life-saving medication.

And there are many in the United States where health care costs might prohibit their ability to access that same medication. So while there are medications that help transform the virus from a deadly infection to a manageable chronic illness, not everyone who needs them has access. If we want to address the AIDS crisis, there are a plethora of issues we also need to be addressing. For example, racism, homophobia, and HIV stigma all intersect to make it difficult for black gay men to be tested and treated for HIV.

If you want to learn more about the history of HIV/AIDS care and activism here in the United States, here are some great books and resources:

  • Quiet Heroes [Film Review] is a documentary about Dr. Kristen Ries and Maggie Snyder, PA, two health care professionals that were the only ones to care for HIV+ people in Utah during the 1980s.
  • Vito is a documentary about Vito Russo, a passionate LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activist and worked with ACT UP.
  • Making Gay History is both a book and a podcast from Eric Marcus. The podcast has a couple episodes of interviews with folks like Vito Russo, Larry Kramer, and Tom Cassidy, all people who had been immensely impacted by HIV/AIDS.
  • When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones is a memoir of Jones’ early life and work with Harvey Milk, the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and so much more. The book talks about how Jones (and many others) lost so many of their friends and family (chosen or biological) because of AIDS and the delayed response in treatment and research.

The AIDS crisis is far from over and there is still quite a lot of work to do. You can talk to your friends and family about this issue and help to decrease the stigma and misinformation about HIV/AIDS. You can also support organizations that work on supporting those who are affected by HIV/AIDS in different ways (including those that also address related issues like housing, health care, and more). Here are some fantastic organizations around the country and the world doing such work:

  • The Sean Humphrey House is located in Bellingham, WA and is an adult family care home that offers a stable living situation and care for low-income folks who are living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Outside In is an organization in Portland, OR and while they don’t specialize in care for those living with HIV/AIDS, they do provide medical care for some of the city’s most marginalized. Plus, they help to secure housing and other resources for those experiencing houselessness.
  • House of GG is an education, resource, and retreat center for trans people started and run by Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. It’s located in Little Rock, Arkansas and you can support their work by donating to their Fundly campaign!
  • ACT UP NY is a nonpartisan group in New York City that works on direct actions to end the AIDS crisis. You can learn about different direct actions both in NYC and elsewhere via ACT UP’s Twitter.

For years, HIV/AIDS ravaged communities around the world in large part because those in power actively ignored the problem.  Hundreds of thousands of people died because research, treatment, and care were shoved to the side. There were too many people who said that HIV/AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuality and too many who wrongly celebrated the deaths of HIV+ people. Those actions and those beliefs are horrific and wrong and were often repeated by the media. Hundreds of thousands of people died because of blatant homophobia, racism, and more and many fear that global homophobia is on the rise. That, in turn, might make HIV treatment and prevention harder.

On this World AIDS Day, I encourage you to act up and fight AIDS!

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