Celebrating Diversity Blog: World AIDS Day

December 1, 2021
A pink background with a red ribbon and and stethoscope that says

Written by Emily VanWormer – Health Resource Manager – CCS Wellness

What is World AIDS Day?

World AIDS Day is recognized each year on December 1st as an opportunity to raise awareness about the global impact of HIV/AIDS and to remember the millions of lives lost to the disease. 2021 is a significant year, as this marks 40 years since the start of the AIDS epidemic. Over one million Americans currently live with HIV, part of the 37.7 million people with HIV worldwide. 

What is HIV/AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus, as its name describes, is spread between people and can compromise the body’s immune system. The late stage of the virus is known as acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome (AIDS). You can’t have AIDS without an HIV infection, but not everyone with HIV has AIDS. The virus is most commonly spread through sexual contact and sharing needles. Spread may also occur through contaminated blood products, or passed to babies from their mother through birth and breastfeeding. 

Once infected, the virus never goes away, however, the outcomes for HIV infection are steadily improving. Antiretroviral treatments are highly effective and can help people live long healthy lives. With proper medications, the levels of the virus can be suppressed. Clinical research proves that once the virus is undetectable by way of viral suppression, it is untransmittable to others. This has been promoted as U=U or #UEqualsU, and is recognized as a huge discovery for preventing further infections. Not every HIV+ person’s status is undetectable, but prevention strategies like condoms and other barrier methods, and preventative medication for partners like PrEP and PEP can help avoid future infections.

What’s Happening with HIV/AIDS Today

Despite the progress in the last 40 years, HIV/AIDS research continues to find better ways to manage and navigate the virus. In the early years, it was thought of as the “gay disease”.  Deaths due to HIV/AIDS were shamefully hidden by families and politicians, despite hundreds of people who were not in the LGBT+ community dying each year too. Celebrities and public figures have shared their status, held flashy fundraisers and produced awareness campaigns, but a painful stigma prevails.  Anyone can be infected with HIV, but it affects people differently depending on your race or ethnic group, gender, sexuality, and age. Highest risk populations include gay or bisexual black and hispanic men, and transgender women. These groups, often facing additional societal and medical discrimination, tend to be impacted at disproportionately higher rates and face harsher outcomes. Globally, women and girls have higher rates of HIV and experience varying accessibility to medical care, education, and sexual autonomy. 

Overall, an American has a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV at some point in his or her lifetime.  For higher-risk groups, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the current lifetime risks for getting HIV are: 

  • 1 in 6 for gay and bisexual men overall
  • 1 in 2 for African American gay and bisexual men
  • 1 in 4 for Hispanic gay and bisexual men
  • 1 in 11 for white gay and bisexual men
  • 1 in 20 for African American men overall
  • 1 in 48 for African American women overall
  • 1 in 23 for women who inject drugs
  • 1 in 36 for men who inject drugs

Prevention on College Campuses

It is especially important to talk about HIV on college campuses due to the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases within this age group. One in four new HIV cases are young adults (15-24 years old), and the same age group accounts for over half of new STDs annually. Stigma around condom use, developing communication skills, higher risk behaviors, and a cultural shame around sex and sexually transmitted diseases are all contributing factors for higher rates.

Break the Silence

People have sex, it’s a normal part of life. When we shame others for their behaviors, it encourages silence and secrecy. For unknown or hidden HIV infections, silence is deadly. Instead, we should all focus on education and support for prevention practices, harm reduction, and stronger communication skills.

Stand in Solidarity with the HIV+ Community

As we stand in solidarity this December to recognize all the progress that has been made, we must also recognize the health inequities that occur within our country, and around the world. Until we have universal access to testing, treatment, and education, the disease will continue to spread. Every person, regardless of their HIV status, deserves accessible, affordable, and culturally sensitive care.
The best way you can honor the history of HIV/AIDS progress is to take actions for your  health. Be honest before sexual interactions, and know your status by getting tested often. Practice safer sex with condoms and consider PrEP if you are at higher risk. Never share needles or other objects that may be contaminated with blood like razors and tattoos from unlicensed facilities. If you are HIV+, keep current with medications and treatment plans, and build a support network. Much like we have learned from the current COVID pandemic, we all must work together toward a common goal if we want to achieve a healthier and safer world. 

World AIDS Day Events:

Please join CCS Wellness + Student Activities Board in recognizing World AIDS Day on December 1st, 2021. We will have informational displays, resources, and free condoms available on both campuses. Info is on Peacock Pride!

Solidarity Event at Marygrove College – December 1st, 2021 from 12 pm – 4 pm
Online Museum Exhibit from the CDC recognizing 40 Years of Progress


Learn More, Get Tested, and Get Involved:

Michigan HIV-STI Hotline: 800-872-2437
Available to answer questions and provide local referrals. Mon-Fri, 9 am – 5 pm.
CDC: What is HIV overview of the virus
The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the United States: The Basics | KFF– Facts and figures 
CDC: Get Tested Interactive map of testing facilities and mail-in options near CCS Campus
Gospel Against AIDS: Detroit faith-based organization with testing and outreach to increase community involvement and reduce HIV stigma.
Community Health Awareness Group (Detroit) / Unified (Detroit / SE Michigan): These expansive organizations offer outreach, testing, social services, clean needle exchange, volunteer opportunities, tobacco cessation, LGBT+ support, and more.
Visual AIDS – Founded in 1988, this NY-based arts collective hosts ongoing digital events and in-person galleries focused on AIDS activism and amplifying the works of contemporary HIV+ artists. Their website is a wealth of visual resources and a piece of living history.