December 1st has always held a special signifigance to me. Not because it's the beginning of the holiday season, and not because it is the day before my birthday. No, it is a highly significant day to me because December 1st is World AIDS Day. AIDS is something that affected my family in the worst way possible, tearing my father down in his prime, taking him away from us at only 43 years old, leaving a wife and two children behind. If you haven't yet, you can read my personal story of my dad's loss right here.
When I was a teenager, I would get looks of disgust when I would tell people what my dad passed from. That's the moment when I chose to spread awareness and facts in order to dispel the stigma and myths surrounding AIDS. Over 1.2 million people living in the United States are living with HIV, and every one in seven of those people do not know that they are infected. Getting tested is so so important. These days, it's as quick as a swab of your cheek. That's it. I get tested every single year for my own peace of mind. It's nothing to be ashamed of.
"We can end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, but only if we close the gap between people who access HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and people who are being left behind. If we accelerate scale-up of HIV services by 2020, we will be on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, but we can only do this if no one is left behind."
So what can you do to help? There are so many wonderful organizations out there that are committed to ending the stigma and putting much needed medications into the hands of HIV patients all around the world. It can be as super simple as buying a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks, who participate in (RED)'s ongoing mission to abolish AIDS and save lives. Since beginning their partnership with (RED) in 2008, Starbucks has since donated a whopping $10 million dollars to the Global Fund, which helps AIDS patients living in Africa. Incredible, right?! Together, we can do this!
But, Starbucks isn't the only wonderful company out there teaming up with (RED)! The holidays are coming up anyway, right? And...today is Cyber Monday, too! What a great combination! If you plan on doing some online shopping today to snag some kickass deals, why not help others while you're doing it?
There are so many ways to get involved, word of mouth, sharing facts and spreading awareness, heading out for an afternoon cup of joe today, or downloading an awesome game on your phone or tablet! There are so many ways to help out! The most important thing to do is to help us to end the stigma. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time out to read this post, even that alone, means the world to me.