It’s been 32 years since the first case of AIDS was reported and the World Health Organization estimates that over 36 million people have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988. The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day event was “Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV infections. Zero Discrimination. Zero AIDS-Related Deaths.”
To commemorate the day, the HIV Services Department at Whittier held events to bring the community together to celebrate the memory of those who have passed due to HIV/AIDS, to receive education about HIV prevention, and to learn more about how HIV is impacting Boston, especially black, Hispanic, and senior populations.
The events were co-sponsored by the Boston Public Health Commission and the Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau, Dr. Anita Barry, who came to Whittier to discuss the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in Boston. She talked about how people are still being infected today despite significant advancements in treatment and prevention methods. In fact, there are currently 5,500 people living with HIV in Boston.
People of color and men who have sex with men (who may or may not identify as gay or bisexual) are disproportionally affected. Of the 196 cases of HIV diagnosed in Boston in 2011, 68% were Black or Latino and 47% were men who have sex with men.
In addition to the information provided by Dr. Barry, there was time allotted for music and remembrance of those we have lost, and an acknowledgement of the struggles of those living with HIV today. Several speakers emphasized that there is always hope and that we should never give up the fight! HIV is no longer a death sentence, and we should all support our HIV-positive community members so they can live long and fulfilling lives.
We were also reminded that knowledge is power. If you don’t know your status, we encourage you to come get tested. Free, confidential HIV tests are available at Whittier Street Health Center on weekdays between 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM. No appointment is necessary, and results are given in 20 minutes.
At Whittier, we have created a unified model of care that integrates primary care with public health prevention to lessen the burden of HIV in Boston’s underserved and minority communities, and to decrease health care costs. Our HIV department works with our primary care clinics to optimize our prevention and care continuum (early detection, treatment adherence, retention in care, viral load suppression and decreased hospitalizations).
For more information about our HIV Services Department, please visit our webpage or call 617-989-3013.