In 2000, 6 million new people worldwide were infected with HIV (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2001). In 2015, there were 2.1 million new cases, a 65% decrease. In the U.S., the situation has been even more steadily improving, with 39,513 people being diagnosed with HIV in 2015.
Although there have been vast improvements in awareness, testing, and treatment of HIV, 39,513 people is too high.
That number should be zero.
And, ultimately, that is our goal. To be a part of the process of eradicating HIV from the United States and, eventually, the world.
That goal is probably decades off, but the prevention work we do now is steadily chipping away at the number of new HIV cases every year.
Why is prevention so important? There are a lot of efforts going on both worldwide and in the states by the CDC, UNICEF, The Red Cross, and numerous community organizations that work on treating individuals who have HIV/AIDS and disseminating resources that help those efforts.
Thus, prevention is key to both reducing the onset of HIV and allowing organizations that take on treatment to not be overwhelmed by the degree of need that exists. Preventing people from acquiring HIV in the first place is the only way to get the number of new HIV cases from 39,513 to zero. By testing people and normalizing the HIV testing process as well as just getting the word out about HIV, we are reducing stigma.
The less stigma there is, there can be more open conversations. That can lead to people being more likely to actually get tested and find out if they have HIV before spreading it to other people. According to the CDC, 1 in 8 people who have HIV do not know that they have that. We also want to get this number to zero.
Tackling the problem of HIV/AIDS is no small thing. It requires the coordinated efforts of individuals, organizations, communities, and governments. You may feel like you can’t do anything to fix the problem, but you are an important part of the solution to ending HIV/AIDS.
Lizzie Timberlake is a CCPE intern and a senior studying psychology at Indiana University.