Today is World AIDS Day. HIV/AIDS is a reality for 47 million women, children and men around the world, including nearly 1.7 million Americans. In the past 20 years since I first became aware of HIV/AIDS in the early 1990s, it seems that our awareness of the disease has shifted from images of gay, HIV positive men to women and children in developing African and Asian countries. But we conveniently ignore the fact that cities like Washington D.C. have the highest HIV prevalence rate (3.2%) that is similar to some parts of sub Saharan Africa, and that among industrialized countries, the U.S. has the largest population of people living with HIV.
It’s easy for young American women to think they’re not at risk for HIV when our American discourse around the issue focuses more on the global aspect of HIV/AIDS than our neighbors. It’s been 30 years since we first knew about HIV/AIDS. Our understanding of the disease has progressed to the point that people living with it can live a long, healthy life with treatment and significantly reduce the chance of transmitting it to their partners. Yes, I know personally how scary and real it can be to be tested for HIV/AIDS. But one of the biggest problems we face is thinking we’re immune or that HIV/AIDS isn’t a problem anymore.