Today, we are using our chance to stand with the worldwide LGBTIQ+ community and their fight against HIV/Aids. Especially during and after a worldwide pandemic, it is essential to remember the deadly virus and its impact not only on gay men. The virus and the disease have badly affected the community, especially gay men, in the past, and even today, being diagnosed as HIV-positive still comes with a stigma. That is why we would like to use today’s opportunity to share knowledge about this vital topic, help to raise awareness, and show our support. Because, even though luckily nowadays there are HIV treatments, the virus has not disappeared, and in many parts of the world, it still threatens people’s lives. Couple of Men reporter Sarah had the chance to talk to Chris Vincent, HIV and Aids activist from Denmark, sharing the latest information and updates for World Aids Day 2023.
Written by Sarah Tekath
and Karl Krause
What is World AIDS Day?
The 1st of December is the official World AIDS Day since 1988 to create awareness, allow people to gather worldwide, and unite their forces in their fight against HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, it is the annual day to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Many organizations worldwide use this day to educate people about safe sex, HIV treatments, as well as discrimination against HIV-positive people, and the current progress in science.
The Red Ribbon – World AIDS Day 2023
You probably already saw people wearing a red ribbon on their chest walking on the street in the past couple of days – be as a red ribbon pin or a self-made ribbon. But what does that mean? The red ribbon dates back to the early 1990ies, about a decade after HIV started to spread among the gay community. Therefore, twelve artists from the Visual AIDS Artists’ Caucus joined forces in New York City’s East Village to look for a way to express support for people living with HIV visually.
Inspired by the yellow ribbons that showed support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War, they decided to create a red version titled “The Ribbon Project“. It was decided to go for the color red – no pink, no rainbow – since HIV and Aids are relevant to everyone, not only to the LGBTQ+ community. Over the years, the red ribbon became one of the most recognized symbols. People like us wear it, especially on and around World AIDS Day, to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV.
By sharing their stories, we get to understand the daily lives of couples that are running a business together, that are activists for freedom and equality together, that are facing everyday problems together or that simply are what they actually are, two people in love. We want them to be seen – by sharing their stories.
What Are HIV and AIDS?
HIV is a virus that attacks human cells that usually help the body fight infections. Being HIV-positive means the body is more to infections and diseases. The virus gets transmitted by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex (sex without a condom or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV) or through sharing injection drug equipment. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS. More information here >
How many people are infected worldwide?
Currently, 38 Million people are living with HIV worldwide. Sixty-seven percent of them have access to the needed medication – which means in return, almost a third of them do not have access to the medication they need. In 2018 690,000 worldwide have died from AIDS. Since the beginning of the epidemic in the late 1970s, early 1980s more than 32 million people worldwide have lost their lives to it. Areas that are currently strongly affected by HIV/AIDS are countries in Southern Africa, as well as East Europe and Central Asia.
The Danish LGBT activist Chris Vincent was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2014. Since then, he has participated in different campaigns to spread knowledge and awareness for HIV/AIDS and founded an NGO himself. For Couple of Men, he talks about misconceptions, dating as a “pos” man, and worldwide access to HIV medication.
Is there an HIV treatment?
Yes, there is. In Germany, for example, 93 percent of the people who are diagnosed to be HIV-positive frequently take HIV medication. Thanks to medication, people who are HIV-positive become undetectable, which means the virus is no longer transmittable. However, the current worldwide situation focusing on the corona vaccination and treatment also negatively affects the availability of HIV medication in many countries. On a positive note: mRNA vaccines could be the starting point to develop vaccines against both HIV and diseases such as malaria in the near future. Several companies claim to have already started development. WHO fact sheet on HIV/AIDS with key facts and information >
World AIDS Day 2023: What needs to be achieved?
Everybody all around the globe who is HIV-negative needs to be granted sufficient access to information about safe sex as well as access to condoms etc. Everybody who is HIV-positive needs to be granted medical treatment and support. Furthermore, it is crucial to break the taboos around HIV/AIDS and openly talk about it. Another worldwide effort is to make people understand “U=U,” Undetectable = Untransmittable. Because information is key!
Karl & Daan.
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