The Impact of AIDS, Yesterday & Today
Early in my healthcare media career I worked for a peer reviewed journal called Infection Control
. It was the mid-1980s. Obviously, a good part of the content focused on a "new" epidemic - AIDS.
Perhaps because I was learning about AIDS so early in its spread to the U.S., I've always followed news about it and supported organizations raising awareness and funds.
Four decades ago the funds were for research to find ways to prevent people from dying; today, more often the money is used to assist people living with the disease.
Recently, a number of AIDS-related issues crossed my path.
A few weeks ago I saw part one of the 7.5-hour Pulitzer Prize winning play, Angels in America. Set in the early ‘80s the play follows several men diagnosed with HIV. It reminded me of how many people suffered due to lack of knowledge, treatment options, and because of the stigma associated with AIDS. At that time there was very little testing available.
In a few months, testing will be available in the privacy of home. OraQuick will have a significant impact on limiting the spread of AIDS. According to an article on the release of the test, "Government officials estimate that about 240,000 people, or one-fifth of the roughly 1.2 million people carrying HIV in the U.S., don't know they are infected. Testing is a chief means of slowing new infections, which have held steady at about 50,000 per year for two decades."
Another impact of the test could be on the healthcare system as more people seek counseling, further testing and treatment. Although a concern, it's a better problem to have than trying to control the spread of an epidemic.
Finally, I was reminded that the AIDS Memorial Quilt, now called the Names Project, will once again be displayed on the Mall in Washington, DC, to coincide with the International AIDS Conference. From July 21-25, 35,200 panels will be on display on the National Mall; 8,800 different panels will rotate in and out every day. This is an amazing visual display of the impact AIDS has had on our population.
I am blessed to say I don't know anyone with a panel on the quilt, or whose name will be read aloud next week. But just the same, I recognize the toll AIDS has taken and celebrate the progress made, and is yet to be realized.
For maps, schedule of events and stories behind the panels, go to http://quilt2012.org/.