December is the national AIDS Awareness Month.
Thirty years ago a rare “cancer” affecting San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City gay men known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Auto Immune Deficiency (AIDS) was discovered.
Since 1981 HIV/AIDS has spread across the nation and the globe.
There are 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States and one in five are unaware of infection, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control.
HIV/AIDS does not discriminate it afflicts everyone from young to old, male to female and gay to straight.
The virus is transmitted through sexual intercourse.
As a gay man I know that I am more susceptible to HIV/AIDS.
I take every precaution, I am tested regularly, do not share needles nor do any drugs and never am unsafe when sexually active.
I also encourage my friends and family, gay or straight, to get tested and get tested often.
The testing is free and simple to do.
The San Joaquin AIDS Foundation located at 4330 N. Pershing Ave., Suite B-3 in Stockton has free testing and information about HIV/AIDS.
On Dec. 1 World AIDS Day cities across the world remembered the lives taken by HIV/ AIDS and those living with HIV/AIDS.
I participated in the Candlelight vigil held at the University of the Pacific’s Morris Chapel.
I sat in the Chapel and was moved by the simple ceremony that concluded in a candle lighting and reading of the names of those lost to HIV/AIDS in San Joaquin County.
Over the years there has been more and more progress made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.
Today someone diagnosed with HIV/AIDS can live longer, unlike in 1981 where if you contracted HIV/AIDS you had a death sentence.
Even with the progressive medical discoveries there has been a myth about HIV/AIDS being a “gay disease.” This was especially true in the early days of the disease.
It is true that homosexual men do represent a large number of the United States AIDS cases, though worldwide the numbers are different.
This is not just a gay disease, as I stated earlier.
HIV/AIDS does not discriminate.
The belief that HIV/AIDS is a gay disease only promotes the spread of HIV/AIDS in the heterosexual community.
We all need to be ever vigilant and get tested. We need to remember that we can win the fight if there is a positive diagnosis.
The key is to know your status.
If you’re negative there are easy ways to stay negative.
If you are positive there are ways to stay healthy, and help raise awareness.
The World AIDS event I attended reminded me of my late second cousin Anthony, who died of HIV/AIDS in the late 1980s.
Although I was only a few years old, there was a connection between us and not in name only. We were both gay. We were both proud to be so.
Having lost a family member to HIV/AIDS I raise awareness and want everyone to take that first step in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS by knowing your status and having safe sex.