People who work closely in raising HIV awareness in Africa
and other countries, or those who are deeply familiar with the inspiring stories of people living with HIV, need to wake up to a new, unforeseen condition of HIV/AIDS: a dangerous increase in ignorance and complacency regarding all aspects of this worldwide epidemic.
If you've gone on a mission trip anywhere on the globe to help repair the devastation wrought by HIV/AIDS, or if you are up-to-date on current information and therefore all too familiar with the heartbreaking statistics‚ that the percentages of women, young people, and African Americans with AIDS keep increasing at a scary rate, and in fact are at an all-time high; and that more than 25 million people have died from AIDS related diseases and currently more than 33 million people are living with the HIV virus‚you may be shocked to discover that many other people are not only unaware of the devastating scope of this epidemic, but also lack awareness of the basic facts about HIV/AIDS.
I recently spoke to an American woman who had been moved by stories of women living with HIV/AIDS and wanted to volunteer at mission organizations
such as Beaded Hope. Speaking of Beaded Hope in particular, she suggested that its focus should be shifted from selling jewelry to selling items never to be worn by the customer. She thought jewelry or any other item worn next to the body carried a risk of contracting HIV if it had been made by someone with the virus.
I was stunned that at this point in time, after all the massive efforts to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, a well-meaning, concerned volunteer could be so poorly informed. It is impossible to transmit the HIV virus on an inanimate object‚ the only way to contract it is through infected body fluids.
This woman's disturbing suggestion confirmed a growing fear of mine: that in spite of a glut of readily available information regarding HIV/AIDS, complacency about and ignorance of the facts are on the rise.
It is crucial that those of us who work to raise HIV awareness in Africa and elsewhere maintain our efforts to educate everyone about those facts. Such as:
HIV can only be transmitted in three ways, through unprotected sex with someone who has the virus, by sharing needles and by an infected mother to her child during delivery or breastfeeding.
HIV/AIDS is a pandemic. In 2008, 33 million people in the world were living with HIV/AIDS. An estimated two million people died from AIDS related causes that year.
The number of people living with HIV has risen every year since the discovery of the virus and continues to grow.
Regarding women and HIV, even though far too many people think this is a man's disease, fully half of those living with HIV/AIDS are women.
AIDS is the second most common cause of death among 20-24 year olds.
Now more than ever, anyone who has ever been touched by inspiring stories of people living with HIV, or who has seen AIDS awareness falling while widely available knowledge of other diseases such as cancer permeates public discussion, has an important obligation to get the word out. Don't let complacency and ignorance add to the devastation caused by HIV/AIDS.