Commemorating World AIDS Day

 

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To commemorate World AIDS Day, various NGOs discussed the significance of civil society’s role in responding to gloabl HIV/ AIDS. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) cannot be eradicated without vaccines, and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) develops in some people after exposure to HIV. People living with HIV can avoid developing AIDS if they are tested and receive treatment early. Dr. Padmini Murthy, global health director/ professor at New York Medical College, considered AIDS as an issue of gender equality. Women are more prone to AIDS due to biological makeup. Getting tested is a high-priority following unprotected sex, or in cases of sexual assault. According to Dr. Murthy, women are less likely to be proactive in obtaining and initiating condom use during intercourse due to societal gender roles in heterosexual encounters. She sighted education and empowerment as key factors in discontinuing this pattern. Simon Bland, director of the UN AIDS office of New York, tested the audience’s knowledge on statistics surrounding HIV/AIDS. Currently, 37 million people live globally with AIDS. The majority of new HIV infections are in young women having heterosexual sex. Only 60% of individuals living with HIV are aware of their positive status.

Eric Sawyer, co- founder of ACT UP and the Housing Works and Health Gap organization, discussed initial responses to AIDS in 1981. There were extreme stigmas. Fear and neglect of diagnosed individuals made living with HIV/AIDS that much more frightening and isolating. Many who tested positive were fired, evicted, and shunned. Only two funeral homes in New York City were willing to embalm HIV positive bodies. However, 35 years later, Deborah Levine, executive director of Love Heals, happily announced that last year no child was born HIV positive in NYC. Molly McHugh, Communications Director of Grassroots Soccer (GRS), stated that GRS offers support to HIV positive youth by referring them to treatment and providing them with safe and supportive spaces.

Meeting: Briefing on “HIV and AIDS: How can civil society revitalize the response?” (on the occasion of the World AIDS Day) (organized by the NGO Relations, NGO Relations and Advocacy, and Special Events Section, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information (DPI))

Date/ Time/Location: Thursday, 1 December 2016; 13:15 to 14:30; United Nations Headquarters, Trusteeship Council Chamber

Speakers: Dr. Padmini Murthy, Global Health Director/Professor at New York Medical College and NGO representative; Simon Bland, Director of UN AIDS office of NY; Eric Sawyer, Co- Founder of ACT UP and Housing Works and Health Gap; Deborah Levine, Executive Director of Love Heals; Molly McHugh, Communications Director of Grassroots Soccer

Written By: Donna Sunny, WIT Representative

The Emotional Impact of an AIDS Diagnosis

Countries with The Highest HIV AIDS Prevalence Rates

 

Following a brief introduction, the documentary “It’s Not Over” was screened. It followed three people – Sarang, Paige, and Lucky – and their experiences surrounding HIV/AIDS to illustrate the human stories behind the disease.

South Africa has more people with HIV than any other country in the world. Locals estimate that 80% of the Khayelitsha population has HIV, and that 1 in 3 adults use drugs there. This drug use can make the body weaker and more susceptible to HIV. A lot of women contract HIV from rape, which is a constant there. Lucky’s friend Sisi says that as a woman living in South Africa, “anything can happen at anytime.”

Some interesting statistics from the film: If on a full effective HIV treatment regimen, HIV patients can lower the chance of spreading the disease by 96%. Out of 400,000 sex workers in Mumbai, up to 75% are thought to have HIV.  2.3 million people are infected with HIV per year.

After the screening, the four speakers answered questions from the audience. Ms. Flynn noted that half of the new infections occurring were in people under 24. Ms. Rawl wants people to learn the basic facts about the disease and understand that having it doesn’t define a person. “It’s not the health aspect of being HIV positive that’s hard…it’s the stigma.”  She is still encountering students in schools whose sexual health classes aren’t teaching them that saliva is not one of the bodily fluids that transmits the disease. To the people who aren’t sure of how to open up about it to those around them, she suggests opening with a general comment about HIV and seeing the reaction in the room. If those people don’t know about HIV, then educate them first and then tell them.

Meeting: Panel discussion on and screening of the documentary entitled “It’s Not Over” (in observance of World AIDS Day (1 December) (co-organized by the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands, the United States Mission, MAC AIDS Fund and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS))

Date/Location: Monday, November 30, 2015; 16:00-18:15, Conference Room 4

Speakers: Andrea Flynn – Moderator, MAC AIDS Fund; Paige Rawl – Author, “Positive”, Subject, “It’s Not Over”; Lotte Dijkstra – Dutch Youth Ambassador for Sexual Reproductive Rights and HIV/AIDS; Andrew Jenks – Director, “It’s Not Over”

Written By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick