INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — World AIDS Day has always been a time when millions get together to show support for those living with the disease but also take steps to educate others about it.
The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Know Your Status.” According to the UNAIDS organization, three in four people living with the disease know their status, but they say everyone should know. There are more than 37 million people in the world who have HIV. In Indiana, there are more than 6,000.
Doctor Elaine Cox from Riley Hospital for Children sat down with us. Her journey to study infectious diseases started with someone you may know – Ryan White. She says her interactions with him left a mark on her life and made her want to help people like Ryan.
And she has for more than two decades now.
Dr. Cox says we’ve come a long way. There’s been a lot of medical advances in the past 20 years. She mentioned patients used to have to take 25 to 30 pills a day, but some now only need to take one pill to manage the disease.
But even with all the progress we’ve made, she says, there is still a long way to go to help the people who are living with AIDS. Dr. Cox says the stigma around HIV has also been hard for her patients to deal with, especially children and teens. She says, people without the disease need to remember that someone diagnosed with HIV is still a human being. They’re brothers, sisters, friends. She says, everyone needs to work harder to accept others.
“How do we, as a culture, embrace not only people with HIV, but other illnesses that are lifelong,” says Cox. “And how do we put supports in so that they can have a life that’s got great quality as well as quantity.”
While strides still need to be made in the U.S., Dr. Cox says there’s more that needs to be done in other parts of the world when it comes to HIV and AIDS. She says 90 percent of people impacted by HIV are outside the country. There were places in Sub-Saharan Africa where entire generations were in danger of being wiped out from the disease.
“It’s important to remember that not everyone has the access to care that we have in the United States,” says Cox. “So, maybe people think, ‘Oh I’m not going to donate to HIV care’ or ‘I’m not going to support legislation for HIV care because it’s a problem that’s sort of solved.’ It’s not solved, because it’s not cured. But it certainly isn’t solved in the rest of the world.”
Dr. Cox says there’s a lot of ways to get involved – from donating money or your time. You may know about the Ryan White van. They have one in Kenya that goes around to treat children by going to their villages and homes.
There are also plenty resources available locally for people to help raise awareness or help those with HIV. One of those organizations that Dr. Cox recommends is the AIDS Service Organization. She says they can help someone find the care they need, from something like getting their medication to helping counsel family members and everything in between. There are several in Indiana.
Click here for other resource recommendations from the Indiana State Department of Health
World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1. Below you’ll find a list of events that are going on in Indianapolis.
- World AIDS Day Annual Observance
- Friday, November 30, 2018
- 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- The Church Within @ 1125 Spruce Street, Fountain Square
- Put on by the Circle City HIV/AIDS Coalition and The Church Within
- Know Your Status World AIDS Day Brunch
- Saturday, December 1, 2018
- 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
- Indianapolis Urban League @ 777 Indiana Avenue, Indianapolis
- Put on by the Indianapolis Urban League
- IMAGINE: A World AIDS Day Celebratory Affair
- Saturday, December 1, 2018
- Starts at 6:00 p.m.
- 416 Wabash Street, Indianapolis
- Put on by Brothers United Incorporated