Despite more than thirty years of education, dedication, and lessons learned to eradicate HIV/AIDS in our communities, there still exists a lack of understanding and passion by our leadership to take ownership of the hand we've been dealt and make the epidemic a part of their brand.
Fighting HIV/AIDS is about a commitment to do all that you can, at every opportunity, to remind the world that our communities continue to suffer. Effective mobilization around the epidemic is a lifestyle choice. Either you're in it all the way, or you're a placeholder for someone who deserves that spot on the stage.
During a recent re-election acceptance speech celebrating one of our city's most revered leaders, it became clear that 30 plus years later, HIV/AIDS is still not receiving the same recognition as other equally devastating maladies such as cancer, autism and a myriad of other health challenges we face every day. As I watched the segment on the evening news, it became very clear, at that precise moment, that HIV/AIDS was not a lifestyle agenda item for many in the room.
It was evident during the photo op that there wasn't one red AIDS ribbon in the room. Imagine the message it would have sent had someone affixed a ribbon to their lapel before leaving the house that day. It would have sent a message to millions infected and affected by the epidemic that they are not forgotten.
While I'm not a public relations professional, I can pretty much put a price on how much it would have costs to remind the world during the press conference that we are still battling one of the most devastating viruses the world has ever witnessed.
I would venture to say that simply wearing an HIV/AIDS ribbon would have cost absolutely nothing, but the effect would have been tremendous considering the media opportunity that presented itself.
By wearing an HIV/AIDS ribbon, especially by those in the daily fight against the epidemic, would have spoken volumes about the daily fight to save our communities. I simply have to ask, where is the passion?
Sadly, the lack of HIV/AIDS awareness and recognition in the media is not confined to far reaching media events. The lack of passion is also evident on the web. Recently while browsing the Internet I still see AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, simply identified as “aids “. Yet again, where is the passion around the epidemic? Think about it, when was the last you wrote your name in all lower case letters.
AIDS is an acronym that should always be capitalized. Not since the 1980s, when we were all still new to the epidemic and the acronym, had I witnessed this kind of misrepresentation of AIDS and what it represents to millions. There's no excuse!
Being truly involved in the battle means knowing that AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the virus that can lead to full blow AIDS if not adequately treated.
As we recognize National HIV Testing Day, June 27, 2014, I think it's only appropriate that we rededicate our focus to raising awareness around the epidemic. We need to direct our efforts and resources around understanding how we can rekindle the passion around the work that has been started. We owe it to those who have come before us to make the simplest gesture whenever possible to keep the passion alive.
Whether it's wearing a ribbon or taking part in a rally, it's important that when we talk about HIV or AIDS we do so in the right context, and create opportunities to educate those within an earshot of our voices.
It's safe to say that more than three decades of information about the epidemic in the media, campaigns, and efforts from the White House, that we would at least get the simplest of things right, such as the capitalization of the acronym, because it matters.
As we recognize June 27th as National HIV/AIDS testing day, wear an AIDS ribbon... BECAUSE IT MATTERS!!
Until There is A Cure....Keeping a Watchful Eye....
Jessica A. Allen