Should we still care about HIV/AIDS? World AIDS Day was held on Dec. 1 for the first time in 1988, at height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Twenty-eight years later, does AIDS still matter? Yes. Despite medical advances in HIV treatment and longer lives for people who contract the virus, AIDS remains forever linked to social injustices and social inequities.
The social system that allows some of us to eat, be housed, and to have comprehensive health care while letting others go homeless, hungry and sick is the same system that makes some of us more vulnerable to HIV than others.
We often say that HIV doesn’t discriminate, but it does. Social inequality makes some far more at risk for HIV than others. People who live in poverty and who are homeless, people who are barred from employment, education and full participation in our community because of racist, sexist, or systemic barriers, and people who are part of sexual or gender minorities are far more vulnerable to being infected with HIV.
For example, poverty and homelessness can lead to feeling powerless. It can prevent you from receiving comprehensive health services, and lead to you being marginalized from the community. Marginalization, poor education and lack of health services mean greater risk of engaging in behaviours that can lead to HIV: unprotected sex, sharing drug equipment, chaotic drug use, and multiple sexual partners.
Every day in our community, people live in conditions that put them at risk of contracting HIV and keep them from having optimum health. So, is World AIDS Day still important in 2016? Should we still care about HIV/AIDS? Yes, because as long as social inequalities exist where we live, the fight against AIDS rages on.
Sarah Cloutier & Patricia Bacon,
Blood Ties Four Directions Centre