Focus is on closing the gap, ending stigma for World AIDS Day 2014

Kris Hickman

About Kris Hickman

Kris Hickman (@the_index_case) is a graduate research assistant for AHCJ, pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She has a bachelor's degree in anthropology, with a minor in journalism, from the University of Missouri. She spent two years in Zambia as an HIV/AIDS community education volunteer in the Peace Corps. She aspires to be an epidemiologist and science writer.

Today is the 26th Annual World AIDS Day. This year, the theme for World AIDS Day is “Close The Gap,” with United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon setting a bold goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

According the World Health Organization, about 35 million people have HIV/AIDS worldwide. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with approximately 70 percent of new infections worldwide occurring there. In the U.S., approximately 1.2 million people live with HIV − and an estimated one out of seven of those are not aware they are infected.

Reducing stigma is an integral part of stopping the global spread of HIV. If people are ashamed, they won’t get tested or know their status, and nothing will be done to stop the spread of the virus. Social media is playing a  bigger role than ever in the push to stop stigma, with Britain’s Prince Harry revealing one of his biggest secrets in an effort to quash HIV-related “shame and stigma” − and encouraging others to do the same with the hashtag #FeelNoShame.

Campaigns like this may overshadow the local perspective on HIV/AIDS, but it’s certainly possible to bring it home and make the epidemic relevant to your community.

If you want to look at the virus through a local lens, or just learn more about it in the U.S., check out this fact sheet from the CDC and the HIV Testing Sites and Care Locator from AIDS.gov, which also features an HIV/AIDS-centered blog.  The CDC also offers a service to help you find counseling and testing centers in your area.

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