World AIDS Day 2023: Commemorating LGBTQIA community's contribution to fight HIV/AIDS

01 December,2023 10:48 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  mid-day online correspondent

World AIDS Day is on December 1. Let`s reflect on the progress made in fighting HIV/AIDS, remember those lost to AIDS, and support those living with the disease.

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Every year on December 1, the world observes World AIDS Day to raise awareness, remember those who have died as a result of the disease, support those living with HIV/AIDS, and celebrate the progress made in combating the epidemic. This significant day allows us to reflect on advancements in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and support, while also recognising the enormous contributions of various communities, particularly the LGBTQIA+ community, in combating this public health crisis.

The selection of December 1 as World AIDS Day is not by chance. The World Health Organisation (WHO) established it in 1988 to draw attention to the rapidly growing AIDS epidemic worldwide. December 1st was chosen to unite people worldwide in the fight against HIV/AIDS and to remember those who died as a result of AIDS-related illnesses.

From the beginning, the LGBTQIA+ community has played a critical role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. When AIDS first emerged as a global health crisis in the 1980s, the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly gay men and transgender people, was at the forefront of the fight. The community faced stigma, discrimination, and neglect from authorities and healthcare providers during this time, prompting them to organise grassroots movements to educate, support, and care for those affected.

Fear, misinformation, and societal stigma characterised the early years of the AIDS epidemic. The LGBTQIA+ community responded by forming support groups, creating safe spaces, and disseminating accurate HIV/AIDS information. AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) organised advocacy campaigns, pushed for better treatment options, and demanded increased government funding for research and healthcare services.

Furthermore, the LGBTQIA+ community was a forerunner in safe sex education, emphasising the importance of condoms, needle exchange programmes, and harm reduction strategies. Their efforts made a significant contribution to promoting safer sexual practices and reducing HIV/AIDS transmission.

Despite significant progress in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, challenges remain. Access to healthcare, stigma, discrimination, and disparities in healthcare services continue to be barriers to disease eradication. The LGBTQIA+ community is still fighting for equal access to healthcare, comprehensive sex education, and policies that protect marginalised communities.

World AIDS Day serves as a reminder of the importance of solidarity, compassion, and continued efforts to achieve an AIDS-free world. It is an opportunity to show solidarity with those affected by HIV/AIDS, advocate for inclusive healthcare policies, and reaffirm our commitment to putting an end to the epidemic.

The theme for this year is "End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics," emphasising the importance of addressing social disparities and inequities to effectively combat HIV/AIDS. Let us remember the lives lost on World AIDS Day, support those affected, and renew our commitment to achieving an HIV/AIDS-free world.

We can ensure that everyone, regardless of identity or background, receives the care, support, and respect they deserve in the fight against HIV/AIDS if we work together in solidarity and collective action.

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