On World AIDS Day, 1 December 2021, the LGBTQ+ community and its allies gather to remember the millions of lives that were lost to this epidemic. Forty years ago, what started as the first five reported cases in 1981 later affected more than 36 million people worldwide.
Since then, monumental changes have been made in the medical world that now make it possible for people who live with AIDS and HIV to live a long and healthy life.
“Life has really changed over the past 30 years. Testing is now available widely in most countries. Increasingly countries are also offering self-testing. Self-testing can be empowering – if people are positive for HIV, they can decide to get treatment as well as prevention. If they are negative, they can get support for prevention,” says Dr Rachel Baggale, coordinator HIV testing and prevention at the World Health Organization, in an article for the WHO.
Yet there is still stigma associated with the disease that make people still fear having open conversations around it. As a result, young LGBTQ+ people remain uneducated about what HIV and AIDs can look like in the modern world, and little is being done to ensure that they are receiving proper sexual health education.
According to WHO, 1.8 million people were newly infected with HIV by 2017 and the numbers are still not falling rapidly enough. A third of these infections are in people aged 15-25 years. Many people infected with HIV are usually unaware, one in four specifically, due to the fear of getting regularly tested and the possibility of being HIV-positive and receiving judgement.
Opening 1 December 2021, the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre is playing a part in helping to educate young people in the community about their sexual health.
The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre will also be fundraising at the opening today for the National AIDS Trust.
“World AIDS Day is an incredibly important time for our community, a time to reflect and remember the millions of lives we have lost to the virus,” says Sarah Moore, a Volunteer Director from the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre.
The space will host regular walk-in HIV testing, providing free sexual health information and hosting special events including the Sunday screening of 1985, a film about a closeted gay man that returns home to his family to say goodbye while hiding that he is dying from AIDS.
“It’s important to educate ourselves of our history, and what HIV/AIDS means today too. Just a few days ago we welcomed the news of a first long-acting injection which will transform the lives of people living with HIV. It’s incredible to see the progress, but there’s still a lot to do. We must commit to fighting for a world without shame and stigma, and to end new HIV transmissions,” she adds.
Young people are the solution to potentially ending the AIDS epidemic in the modern world but it can only happen if we continue to promote open conversations, regular testing, and practicing safe sex. The earlier that patients can receive a diagnosis, the better chance they have at benefiting from treatment
Members of the public are welcome to visit the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre located at Bankside, open on Wednesdays to Sundays from 11am-8pm. It will remain open for a six-month period.
Do you have any suggestions about how young LGBTQ+ people can learn more on World Aids Day? Leave a comment below!