On this World AIDS day in 2016, Florida has the highest rate for new HIV cases in the country! Due to cutbacks with the state health system and awareness down in the millennial generation, HIV/AIDS is still very much alive and well. Yes, we have had significant advances since the 80’s when HIV/AIDS was a death sentence to so many. The profile was higher with celebs like Rock Hudson and child hemophiliac Ryan White bringing attention to the new disease. The newer generations still need information regarding prevention. They must understand that this disease is still a very real problem in 2016.
Thirty years later, HIV/AIDS is still around and is still claiming lives. The newer medications keep the disease at bay longer but the end result is still death. We don’t have a cure yet. People getting tested have been finding that they have had it for a while and didn’t even realize it. One of the biggest risk groups for HIV/AIDS is black women. Middle-age people 50-59 also are a risk. So if you are still thinking this is a gay disease, think again. Worldwide, there are 36.7 million people living with HIV and 1.8 million CHILDREN. New infections in children have declined 50% in the last few years which is positive due to new preventions.
In the Sarasota/Manatee area, we have several agencies continuing in the fight with grants and private donations to help those afflicted. The Community AIDS Network and the Health Department offer testing. There is mobile testing available for all communicable diseases. Condoms, clean syringes and abstinence are all practical preventative measures that can help in the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project in our area since 2000, recently had their annual World Aids Day fundraiser with their production of “Stories from the Quilt, An Evening of Song and Stories” honoring those who have lost their lives to the disease. They tirelessly help people affected with HIV/AIDS by donating personal items, medications, and occasional financial help when they have the funds available. They are a non-profit getting most of their funds from private donors in the community.
Please remember those we have lost on this 2016 World AIDS Day and the hope that one day there will no longer be a need for World AIDS Day….
Photo courtesy of Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project