World AIDS Day; We Remember

Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO,
San Diego LGBT Community Center

For many, December 1st marks the beginnings of a holiday season filled with events, family, friends, a spirit of gratitude for all we have and the excitement of all we hope to give.

December 1st is also the day we take a moment to remember the more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS and the almost 600,000 who have died from the pandemic. For almost thirty years we have lived in the shadow of the virus, and while much progress has been made, a battle of huge proportion remains.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since June of 1981, 1.7 million people in the U.S. have been infected with HIV, including more than 580,000 who have already died. More than 1.1 million are estimated to be living with the disease today. Every 9½ minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV. And the community of men who have sex with men, particularly African-American and Latino men, continues to be at highest risk.

In San Diego County, men who have sex with men (gay and non-gay identified) continue to account for 76% of recent AIDS cases. The second most common mode of transmission is MSM who inject drugs (MSM+IDU), accounting for an additional 11% of recent cases. Combined, these two categories account for almost 9 out 10 recent AIDS cases. And among these cases, almost 60% are men of color. Looking even deeper into the epidemiological data: it is those with the least access to prevention and treatment information, those with fewest resources and those who face the greatest obstacles who also face the greatest risk. Clearly our struggle against this pernicious virus is not over.

And today we remember this struggle. We remember those we have lost and we stand side by side with all those individuals and families who struggle to live full lives despite the virus. We honor those who have spent their lives struggling against the virus and those dedicated to helping. We remember those on waiting lists for life-saving medications, information and help.

And as we remember, we recommit to the fight for our friends, our family members and our community.

P.S. One of the most important messages we can send today is a message about HIV testing and early treatment. According to the CDC, almost 30% of those at highest risk have never been tested and 40-50% of those infected with the virus do not know they are infected. Early treatment and early medication are our most powerful, life-saving interventions BUT, they begin with knowing your HIV status. The Center offers HIV testing M-F and the CDC recommends that those men who have sex with men in urban areas be tested at least once a year.