is a day in December that I look forward to each year and it's not the
one that brings promises of clattering hooves and jolly fat men. It is a day when
those of us who spend the year struggling for social change, reaching for new
goals and fighting to stop this disease, come together to celebrate, remember,
and reflect. On December 1st, World AIDS Day, we take a moment from the fight
to celebrate the good stuff that is happening around us.
I look around, I see continued research for an HIV vaccine. I see treatments that
are improving-easier dosing regimens and new meds to fight resistant strains of
the virus. I see the African American and Latino community responding to the epidemic,
where rates of HIV infection are disproportionately high. I see HIV and AIDS cropping
up again on television and on the radio. I notice more people wanting change.
notice that an HIV clinic in Lesotho-the country where I served as a Peace Corps
Volunteer in 2004 continues to treat patients. When it opened a year ago,
there was speculation that Lesotho's people the Basotho wouldn't
come to the clinic. That they were afraid of being seen entering the building.
That they didn't trust the medications. That they didn't believe their lives could
be different. In the face of these challenges, the clinic opened its doors anyway.
Today, the clinic treats over 3,000 people. Most adhere to the complex dosing
requirements. Many look and feel better-the initial success inspires them to try
There is more outstanding work being done in Africa.
Countries like Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe offer inspiration. These countries overcame
enormous obstacles and, according to the United Nations and World Health Organization;
they actually saw a decline in new infections last year. These are beacons
of hope-a reason to celebrate.
This is the AIDS story that
you aren't hearing.
You aren't hearing about Michigan's 16,200
people living with HIV and AIDS who call on us to act. You aren't hearing about
the 4,700 Detroiters with HIV and AIDS who struggle with stigma, inequality and
poverty. In fact, right here in the 48207, over 200 people live with HIV-within
an arm's reach of thedetroiter.com office. Some of their stories are heroic. Some
are tragic. I celebrate each of their lives. Today.
I see many
passionate Detroiters out there who want to make a difference. Use that passion.
Learn as much as you can.
Know that the number of new HIV infections
continues to rise globally. Current efforts to improve access to treatment aren't
reaching many of the most impoverished people, some right here in Detroit. Gender
inequity, poverty, racism, violence, and hunger continue to hamper testing, treatment
and support efforts. All this is true. And it isn't going away. That means that
we have a lot of work to do-and we'd better get busy.
I hope you'll forgive my idealism. I am in the middle
of a celebration, after all. Tomorrow, I'll roll up my sleeves and
get back to the fight. 2006 can be a year of extraordinary action.
(For the winning entries of thedetroiter.com sponsored
World AIDS Day Essay contest please click here.)