World AIDS Day: Keeping The Promise

Each year on December 1, we pause to acknowledge World AIDS Day. In the past, we may have attended a memorial service, said a prayer, or lit a candle as we thought of the millions of people who had died and the families that had been so profoundly affected by HIV and AIDS.

But as the global pandemic has changed, so has World AIDS Day. With the advent of new medicines, HIV is no longer a death sentence. The care and treatment provided by groups like CRS allow people living with HIV to lead productive and hopeful lives. In many cases, people on the medications are able to get up from their sick beds and resume dynamic lives, caring for their families and earning a living. And so today World AIDS Day is as much a celebration and a call to action as it is a day of remembrance.

Real progress is being made, and we are all a part of it. The Catholic Church is the world’s largest provider of care for people living with HIV. Catholic Relief Services and its partners are reaching millions of people living with and affected by HIV across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

But World AIDS Day isn’t just about what’s happening in the hardest-hit countries. The virus is very much a part of our own community. The Baltimore metropolitan area, where CRS has its headquarters, has the second-highest rate of HIV diagnoses in the nation, behind only Miami. There are currently more than 32,000 living with HIV or AIDS in our area. Some neighborhoods have rates similar to the most-impacted areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Click here to see the rates in your county.

Maybe you’re not at risk. But what about your friends, your neighbors, your children? On this World AIDS Day, I encourage you to take some time to learn more about the local HIV epidemic. Educate yourself and others. Talk to your kids. Know your status. And make learning about HIV a habit.

World AIDS Day doesn’t end on December 2 – it’s a yearlong campaign, and you can make a difference. To learn more about global efforts to respond to HIV, visit http://www.crs.org/worldaidsday/. If you have questions or need referral to services, call the confidential Baltimore-area HIV hotline at 410-887-AIDS. For general questions or to learn about services in other areas, call the CDC at 1-800-232-4636.

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