I look forward to this year’s World AIDS Day as I am eager to witness how Canada and the world can engage in global solidarity to respond to the dual pandemics of HIV and COVID-19, as well as the ongoing Overdose Crisis, through ending inequalities.
As a person living with HIV, World AIDS Day does not only happen on December 1st of each year. In fact, I celebrate World AIDS Day every single day.
Every second of my life has been made possible by highly active anti-retroviral treatment (HAART), which will enable me to live along and productive life (just like any sero-negative person). With effective treatment and a suppressed, undetectable viral load, I know that I cannot pass on HIV sexually to others. This is how I practice shared responsibility in HIV prevention.
If your experience with isolation over the pandemic has impacted your mood and mental wellness, can you think of how being disconnected from society day after day would feel like? Unfortunately, such isolation and disconnection are often experienced by people living with HIV and people who use drugs on a daily basis as a result of HIV and drug-related stigma and discrimination. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges in how people living with HIV and people who use drugs can seek support. In fact, Canada is amidst a worsening Overdose Crisis.
My first ask of you on this World AIDS Day is to read up about the Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U) Campaign, and share the news with at least five other people today (and ask them to do the same!). My second ask of you this World AIDS Day is to get tested if you have not already done so. You can visit readytoknow.ca for more information about HIV self-testing in Canada. My third ask is to pick up a naloxone kit from the pharmacy and carry it with you so that you can save a life in the event that you witness an opioid overdose. My last ask is for you to take a moment and see how you and your community can end the inequalities that are experienced by people living with HIV/AIDS everyday.
I invite you to join me in proactively engaging in Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Communities on Turtle Island, or taking a stance to counter systemic and structural racism against members of BIPOC communities.
Stay well, stay healthy, make love and have fun!