By Dr. Cynthia C. Brinson, Chief Medical Officer at Texas Health Action
Originally published by RxSaver
Each year since 1988, the world has come together on December 1 to focus on ending the AIDS epidemic. Although this year, we are battling two public health crises, from both AIDS and COVID-19, it remains incredibly important to celebrate World AIDS Day, even if events look a little different this year. Here are five ways to celebrate World AIDS Day, by uniting with others to end the stigma, and prevent the spread of HIV.
What is World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day, and more than 30 years later, we continue to mark this special day. World AIDS Day offers the entire world the opportunity to not just mourn and honor those who have died from this disease; but to raise awareness about the ongoing need for prevention education, stigma reduction, and a greater understanding of how AIDS continues to affect communities across the globe.
Each year, a specific theme is chosen for World AIDS Day, and the 2020 theme of “Resilience and Impact” couldn’t be more relevant. This year, we must focus on resilience, when it comes to dealing with the ongoing AIDS epidemic and the concurrent COVID-19 pandemic. The theme also serves as an excellent reminder that all of us have the opportunity to make an impact when it comes to ending the HIV epidemic.
HIV and COVID-19: Impacts of Viral Infections
This year, communities across the globe have been struck by a viral infection that has sickened and killed millions across the world. 40 years ago, HIV began to do the same, and today continues to disproportionately impact certain communities.
Unfortunately, the emergence of COVID-19 has put our friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are infected with HIV, at greater risk for complications or severe sickness should they become infected with COVID-19.
So this year, while you’re honoring World AIDS Day, take a moment to remember that in our communities there are countless individuals from all walks of life, who are understandably very worried about contracting COVID-19. So do your part. Wear your mask, maintain a safe social distance, and wash your hands frequently.
What can you do to celebrate World AIDS Day?
Celebrating World AIDS Day can take a variety of forms. You may choose to honor the day by researching the impacts of AIDS or learning more about how HIV affects communities.
You may want to educate yourself about harm reduction or learn how you can help end the stigma of HIV. You may want to honor those lost by viewing AIDS memorials. You may want to get an HIV test to mark the day.
There is no wrong way to celebrate this special day, but if you need a little help, here are five specific ideas for celebrating the day.
Get an HIV Test
On World AIDS Day, various healthcare providers will mark the day with events, extended hours, education, and more. At Kind Clinic in North Austin, for example, our walk-in HIV testing hours are extended through the evening. Walk-in testing will be available on December 1, 2020, from 9 am- 12 pm; 1:30 pm-4:30 pm; and 5:00 pm-8:00 pm.
Check with your local testing center to learn more about special hours or events on World AIDS Day.
Stream Online Events
This year, World AIDS Day has gone virtual. Streaming events are available throughout the day, including World AIDS Day 2020 A National Conversation, which will feature speakers including Dr. Anthony Fauci. The free virtual event will spotlight the interconnectedness of both the HIV and COVID-19 pandemics. The event begins at 10 am EST.
The National Institute for Health’s Office of AIDS Research (OAR) will host the NIH World AIDS Day Observance, Science and Community: Working together to Prepare for the Unexpected at 11 am EST on December 1, 2020.
A bit later, you can participate in the Live with Leadership-World AIDS Day edition, an online event which you can join by Zoom on December 1, 2020, at 2 pm EST.
Interactive Virtual Quilt Viewing
For the first time ever, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is on display virtually. With more than 48,000 panels, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is a powerful visual, available this year in an interactive searchable format.
One of the simplest ways to mark World AIDS Day is by wearing a red ribbon. The red ribbon is the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV and AIDS.
Getting involved in the fight to end HIV may be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. But it’s important to commit to something you feel strongly about, not just because you feel like you “should.”
Think about what you’re passionate about. Perhaps, you’re passionate about talking to children about HIV. Maybe you love the arts and want to honor the countless artists we’ve lost to AIDS by getting involved in an organization focusing on the arts. Decide what is important to you, and then seek out organizations where you can volunteer.
Focusing on Prevention for the Future
Our focus for the future must remain on prevention. But, in order to prevent the spread of HIV, we need to continue to destigmatize the illness, and we need to continue to talk about the real threat that HIV infection continues to pose. HIV has not gone away, and although you may not believe that you are at risk of HIV, the risk remains.
Fortunately, due to advances in PrEP medications, we are continuing on the path towards eradicating this virus, if we all do our part. So this World AIDS Day, let’s celebrate the progress we’ve made, honor those we have lost, educate others, get involved, and unite in our global fight to end this virus.
Cynthia C. Brinson, MD
Cynthia C. Brinson, MD earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin and obtained her medical doctorate at Texas Tech University, Health Science Center in Lubbock, Texas. She completed her Family Practice residency at Brackenridge Hospital in 1993, serving as the Chief Resident her final year. In addition to being a private physician at Red River Family Practice, Dr. Brinson has been the Medical Director of Central Texas Clinical Research, LLC for more than 15 years. She has overseen more than one hundred HIV/AIDS related clinical trials and research studies, as well as another fifty studies within a variety of other health concerns. Dr. Brinson has been both a tireless attendee and featured presenter in the world’s most highly regarded conferences on HIV/AIDS, and has been published in numerous esteemed scientific journals. In 2013, Dr. Brinson was awarded the Byron E. Cox Spirit of Caring Award for her “courageous and faithful commitment to no one facing serious illness alone” and has been named one of the “Best Doctors” in Austin six times. She is the Travis County Correctional Facility’s HIV and Chronic Care Physician and an Adjunct Clinical Affiliate at the University of Texas School of Nursing. Astoundingly, she still finds time in her life to donate her unparalleled HIV/AIDS expertise to our clients here at Texas Health Action/The Kind Clinic and is the generous provider of the clinical space we need to see our patients.