December 1st marks World AIDS Day.
For the past 13 years, people all over the world have used this day to educate, learn, remember and think about and put the focus of the global community for just one day on HIV and AIDS. Saturday, December 1st is no exception.
Under the worldwide slogan "I care...do you?", people will come together at star-studded fundraising events, silent candlelight vigils, noisy parties, memorial services, concerts, art shows and plays or at thought provoking public speeches or will be reminded of HIV/AIDS by volunteers asking for donations in the streets, by TV documentaries, Safer Sex ads on TV or people wearing the red ribbon on their lapel.
Use the day! Educate yourself and share your newfound knowledge with others; talk about HIV/AIDS with people around you, discuss HIV/AIDS in school, write an article about a local initiative or help service, read and watch the news with open eyes, or get your partner, yourself or your friends together to a local health center to get an HIV test.
Still needing some basic info? Are you still confused as to what HIV really is? Your first stop should be our STI FILE: HIV. It will give you the very basics about HIV that you will need to understand and profit from your further research.
Understood that and now want more information about specifics on HIV/AIDS? A good place for very detailed information is The Body, a website chock full with the latest information on everything surrounding HIV/AIDS; from basics about how the virus works and is transmitted, information on safer sex, to detailed medication and lifestyle information for people who are HIV positive and to the latest political issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.
Are you worried about condom safety, the details of HIV transmission or the latest "HIV transmitted through needle injury in playground" -eMail that ended up in your e-mail inbox? The Body definitely has the correct answers, collected from a variety of reputable sources. In regards to HIV transmission, check out HIV transmission frequently asked questions and in regards to the e-mail rumors surrounding HIV, tale a look at Hoaxes surrounding HIV transmission.
If that information is too technical/medical for you, please make sure you visit What You do, an excellent HIV/AIDS information website for teens, maintained by professionals from the University of California, San Francisco. They offer honest advice on pressing questions such as "Is HIV still a risk if you're faithful to your partner?"
YouthHIV.org also has lots of good info on HIV, sexuality and politics surrounding sexual health.
Another excellent starting point for your quest for more information is Avert, another website full with information for young people, personal stories, a history section, information on becoming infected, a young and gay section, free resources, links to organizations and helplines in the US and UK and to events for World AIDS Day.
I strongly recommend reading the personal stories section of the site; which features the experiences of HIV-positive women, men, teens and family members of those who are HIV-positive, have AIDS or have died from AIDS. If you are one of those who thinks "it can't hit me" or if you have a friend who thinks that way and hasn't discovered the pleasures of safer sex in all its latex glory, read or have him/her read the experiences of young people living with HIV.
We also have the story of a friend with HIV right here at the site; take some time to read Not a faceless disease.
A project trying to give HIV/AIDS a face, and prevent that people who have died of AIDS from being forgotten about is AIDSquilt: The Names Project; friends or family make a beautiful quilt in memory of their loved one that is then stitched together with the quilts of others who have passed away. The big quilt panels are often displayed during AIDS Awareness events or in public places, and not only do you get an impression of how many lives were lost through HIV/AIDS; you also get to see that each and every one was a unique being that was loved and is now missed.
One thing we shouldn't forget is that HIV is a virus, and hence colorblind, orientation-blind, culture-blind and gender-blind. Anyone can get HIV if they don't practice Safer Sex.
So what is Safer Sex then? Safer Sex means using condoms for all vaginal, anal and oral sex, dental dams as a barrier for oral sex on females and oral stimulation of the anus and latex gloves for manual sex; all teamed up with a condom safe lubricant. During Safer Sex, you avoid exchanging any body fluids through which HIV might be transmitted.
So: what do you need when, how do you do it, and are there reasons apart from HIV (and all other STDs) why you should be having Sex the latex way? For answers to these questions, please check out our awesome article Safe, Sound & sexy - How to bring Safer Sex into the bedroom without the Buzzkill. Need to refresh your knowledge of how to use a condom? Take a look at our Condom Basics. Not sure which brand of condoms and lube you good? Hop over into our Safer Sex: Condoms, Lube & More forum at the boards.
However, safer sex alone ain't enough. To lower your risk of transmitting or contracting STDs further, you and your partner(s) should also get full STD screens every 6 months, including an HIV test, which can often be done anonymously. A recent study from the Center for Disease control released just in time for World AIDS Day showed, that a whopping 30 percent of people considered at risk for HIV had never been tested for HIV before, apparently because they didn't deem themselves at risk; hence didn't take precautions and risked spreading the virus.
Have you had an STD screen and an HIV test before? If not, and you are sexually active or about to become sexually active: now is the time. Wonder what it entails? Check out our article Testing, testing, 1,2,3.
If you don't want to go to the clinic alone, grab your partner or your best mates, and all go and get screened together.
Got all these things already covered and are instead looking for statistical information and hard facts to help you and others realize how big of a global problem HIV/AIDS really is? Hop over to UNAIDS where you can find -amongst other things- The UNAIDS: AIDS epidemic update report, December 2001 which will inform you that in 2001, there were 14.000 new AIDS infections each and every day. 95% of these new infections occurred in developing countries, and of these 14.000 daily infections 6.000 cases (which is half of all new infections in adults per day) were in people between the ages of 15 and 24. In all newly infected people over 15, almost 50% are female. Overall, 5 Million people, of whom 800.00 were children, were newly infected with HIV in 2001.
There were also 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS, among them 17,2 Million women, and 2,7 Million children under 15. 3 Million people died of AIDS, among them 580.000 children.
UNAIDS also features photos that show local efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and illustrate what living which HIV or hearing the diagnosis can be like.
UNAIDS also does work in connection with this year's slogan "I care...do you?". 2001 is the second year of a two year campaign intended to create a sustained focus on the role of men in the AIDS epidemic, as HIV infection is still higher-with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa- in men than in women.
Lack of sex education and (sexual) health care for young men and living traditional roles within a local community, among other things, contribute to young men being at a high risk for contracting and transmitting HIV. Increasing sex education for young men, training doctors to deal with their male patients sexuality, encouraging young men to access local health care and family welfare facilities and promoting 100% condom use right from the start of having partnered sex, the fact that safer sex is more enjoyable sex because of less worry is an add-on. To read more about the current focus on men and the role in regards to HIV and AIDS take a look at The Body: UNAIDS - Boys, Young Men and HIV/AIDS. If you are curious as to how "I care...do you?" is made public in different parts of the world, take a look at these posters from the world over.
If this got you all interested, and you want to stay on top of the latest developments in regards to HIV/AIDS even after World AIDS Day is over, Yahoo News Full Coverage: HIV/AIDS is a good compilation of news reports from all over the world. Want to do more? Stop Global AIDS is the student global AIDS campaign, a rising movement and network of students at 215 high schools, colleges, and graduate schools in the US to heighten HIV/AIDSawareness.
It's good to use World AIDS Day to take some time to educate yourself and the people around you about HIV/AIDS, to get tested and to buy condoms, donate some money and to wear a ribbon.
Don't forget though, that you should stick to your resolutions and practice Safer Sex on all other 364 days of the year, too. People living with HIV/AIDS and the organizations that care for them need money and attention all year round, too, and if you discovered through your research this World AIDS Day, that this is an issue you care about: why not get involved and volunteer for a sex education organization, get involved in peer-to-peer support or ask the people who distributed leaflets and condoms on your campus today whether you could help next time?
(NOTE: go back and link the links!)