This year’s world AIDS day theme had a special meaning for me. A few weeks ago I went to visit a close family member who has been living positively for over ten years now. I was amazed by how cheerful she was and her positive attitude towards everything. Life has not been easy for her over the years. She lost her husband and had to raise her son on her own. Not everybody has been supportive but that has not stopped her from getting up each day, willing to live. With the right medication she has been able to live a relatively normal life despite her infection.
The theme for this year was, “universal access based on human rights.” A lot is being done to prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic but it is also important not to forget those that are already infected. Timely access to HIV related treatment not only gives those infected a chance to live longer but a chance to live a normal life.
According to the 2010 Human Development Report, the availability of treatment in Southern Africa has played a crucial role in forestalling dramatic drops in life expectancy in the region which would have occurred otherwise. HIV rates of new infections are also reported to be falling.
The war against HIV/AIDS cannot be won in one day — we are making progress but there is still a lot to be done. For the campaign to succeed, everybody needs to be on board. No contribution is too small — getting tested and knowing your status; sticking to one partner; encouraging those that are infected to get the right medication; and informing friends about the risks of getting HIV/AIDS are just some of the things that we can do to help.
The red ribbon, which is an awareness ribbon, has a lot of meanings. But most importantly it acts as a symbol to show solidarity of people living with HIV/AIDS. We may not all wear the red ribbon, but I believe we can all be ‘red ambassadors’ in taking the message about HIV/AIDS out there and making a difference. Together, we can make a difference.