Today is World AIDS Day! Wear your red ribbons this month – better yet, all year – to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS, or to support someone you know who’s living with it. If you happen to be victim of this relentless virus, I send you air-hugs and my support!
It’s a day to get educated and know the truth about HIV and AIDS, in order to eliminate the myths that continue to cycle about it. And for those of you who are educated: spread the word! Wrong information is the main fuel for cruel judgement, sour stigma, and outright ignorant behaviour.
The international goal is Getting to Zero – zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths. It’s a strategy designed by UNAIDS; a division of the United Nations. And my contribution is to raise awareness. So many people are fearful of “catching” the virus as if it were airborne, without bothering to learn how it’s truly transmitted.
I challenge you to take the following quiz(zes). The link will open an interactive quiz. You have a choice to take the test as a “gay or bisexual male” by closing the prompt, or you can click the prompt and take the quiz as “everybody else.”
Both quizzes are different! I suggest doing both, the first time pretending to be “everybody else” and the second time as a “gay or bisexual male.”
Also, some questions are admittedly specific to the UK (ie. the laws about disclosure), so don’t worry about those ones so much, unless you actually live in the UK, then pay attention! 😛
Sidenote: Please be aware of your own country’s HIV disclosure laws as each country has different laws.
How’d you do on the test?! Nearly perfect? Need some brushing up on the basics? Don’t worry, I got you covered!
I had the opportunity to write a fairly educational piece on HIV and AIDS in the Brant Advocate last year, with great reception!
I encourage you to take a read through and share it with those who you think could benefit from the shared knowledge.
Here’s the article: HIV: Update Your Status
My best advice is for you to get tested and know your HIV status. Did you know that in Canada alone, 25% – that’s a quarter! – of those living with HIV do not even know they are infected! Why? Because in most cases there are no symptoms that you’ve even contracted the virus. The only way to know if you’re infected is to get a blood test.
The test is so simple these days. The nurse simply pricks your fingertip, extracts some blood, and tests it right there and then. You’ll know your status within minutes, rather than the usual two weeks it used to take. Search online for a local clinic near you.
How often should you get tested? Well, for those who are sexually active, it’s suggested every year. For those with further risk of HIV exposure, such as being in a mixed-status relationship, having condomless sex, or sharing needles, should get tested every three to four months.
The earlier you diagnose HIV, the easier it is to treat the virus and to prevent spreading it unknowingly.
Respect yourself and keep you, and your partners, safe.
Fun fact (that I learned from my clever boyfriend): The red ribbon that signifies AIDS awareness is one of the first health awareness ribbons, created in the 80’s. It was only after that, that other health programs took up the ribbon and changed its colours and patterns for their own awareness campaigns.
If you have more questions, check out www.catie.ca, for more Canadian information on HIV and AIDS. There’s also an AIDS Network that is well suited to helping you out with various things for various situations, so don’t hesitate to contact them if you feel you don’t have anyone to turn to after discovering that you’re HIV-positive.
I’m an HIV/AIDS ally, and will do what I can to help educate and reduce the discrimination associated with it.
What will you do about it?