World AIDS Day: We All Share The Responsibility
By Dr. Paula Thaqi
Can you imagine our community free of the HIV/AIDS epidemic? Yes, what a beautiful thought.
But we must ALL do our part along with doctors, nurses, public health officials, business leaders, elected officials, community leaders, people living with HIV/AIDS – the entire community must commit to taking action in order to stop HIV/AIDS.
“Shared Responsibility” is the theme for the 26th Annual World AIDS Day, and it is right on point for Broward County.
HIV has heavily impacted Broward’s Black community. Last year, 325 of the 688 adults who tested positive for HIV in Broward County were Black, and 80 of these individuals were diagnosed with AIDS at the same time. To date, more than 8,615 Black adults are living with HIV/AIDS in Broward. That number represents half (49 percent) of the adults living with HIV/AIDS in the County.
How can you help? The Florida Department of Health in Broward County, working with community partners, has developed a campaign to let us all know what we can do to combat the epidemic. We call it “Broward is Greater Than AIDS.” You may have seen the bus ads.
First, let’s all be more tolerant. The stigma put on HIV may be the biggest single obstacle we face in combating the epidemic. As a result, many others around us clam up and close down. They won’t talk about HIV, learn about it or take steps to protect themselves, in fear they will be judged. There’s no place for stigma in a community trying to overcome an epidemic.
Second, get tested. We have greatly increased HIV testing because one of every five people with HIV doesn’t even know they have it. Half of the new infections in Broward County come from unaware people unknowingly spreading HIV to unsuspecting sex partners. But people who know they have HIV are more likely to protect their partners – and the community.
As part of our campaign, we are asking healthcare professionals to adopt “routine testing.” That means offering all patients an HIV test. So, if your doctor suggests that you get tested, they’re not judging you, they’re just practicing good medicine. If you ask your doctor for an HIV test, your doctor will see you as responsible rather than assume you are engaged in risky behavior.
Third, learn the facts. For more information, visit http://browardgreaterthan.org/talk-about-hiv.
Fourth, protect yourself and your baby. Get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in the first and last three months of your pregnancy.
Finally, get treated if you test positive for HIV and stay in treatment. Always taking anti-viral medication as directed makes individuals healthier and greatly reduces the chances of infecting partners.
We all have a role to play in defeating HIV/AIDS. Remember the African proverb: “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.” Let’s travel together.
Dr. Paula Thaqi is the Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Broward County.