Today is World AIDS Day, a time for people all over the globe to remember those we’ve lost to HIV and to recommit ourselves to ending the AIDS epidemic once and for all.
According to UNAIDS, 35 million people have died from AIDS-related complications since The New York Times first reported the existence of “a rare cancer” affecting more than 40 gay and bisexual men in the New York City and the San Francisco Bay areas. Today, there are 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide, with 2.1 million becoming newly diagnosed in 2015 alone.
While HIV continues affect people from all walks of life, certain communities remain more heavily impacted than others. In the United States, for example, gay and bisexual men comprise approximately two percent of the total population but more than 60 percent of all new HIV transmissions. Even though the number of people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. fell by nine percent between 2010 and 2014, it actually increased among young Black and Latino men who have sex with men. The realities for transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, are equally troubling, especially as we often lack the necessary data to fully capture the impact of HIV on this marginalized community.
Despite these sobering figures, there is reason to be optimistic. Many parts of the world, including the U.S., are closer than they’ve ever been to bringing about an AIDS-free generation. HIV testing can be done in as little as 60 seconds. There are several ways to prevent the spread of HIV, including the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and we now know that it is virtually impossible for a person living with HIV with an undetectable viral load to transmit the virus to a partner. In order to be considered undetectable, a person living with HIV must consistently take their medication so that the amount of HIV in their body cannot be detected by a standard HIV test.
HRC is committed to working with our allies, partners, members, and supporters to end the dual epidemics of HIV and HIV-related stigma. We are educating LGBTQ people and allies about the current realities of HIV, mobilizing our grassroots army of more than two million people to take action, and we are defending the rights and well-being of people living with and affected by HIV. As our community enters a period of tremendous uncertainty, we will stand united against those who would seek to roll back the progress we’ve made on this issue and every other.