Most people believe the HIV epidemic only exists in Africa.
However, more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States. Around 50,000 people will be infected with HIV in the United States this year and one in five people already living with HIV are unaware of their infection. Is cognitive dissonance, the fear of stigmatism or plain ignorance the reason why the HIV epidemic continues in the United States?
In 1990, when I was tested for HIV, a positive result was a death sentence as there were no medications to treat the disease. It would not be a quick and painless death, but one drawn out by two to three years of painful, debilitating diseases.
Paralyzed by the fear of losing your friends, partner, job, health insurance and life makes it completely understandable why no one would want to be tested (for the back story on why I was tested read here), especially if they were in a high risk group.
Today, there is no good reason to not get tested.
There are effective, tolerable medications to treat the disease, we are protected by the ADA, healthcare laws are changing and people are more educated about the disease. In addition to caring for yourself, you will be caring for your loved ones and the world as research shows that reducing the viral load also reduces the transmission of HIV to others.
Having an HIV test in 1990 required an office visit, a blood draw and an anxiety-ridden week of waiting for the result, which could only be obtained in person. Today, you no longer have to make time for an office visit or suffer the pain of a blood draw. On July 3, 2012, the FDA approved OraQuick, the first complete, at home HIV test that provides you with results in a mere 20-40 minutes.
The 19th International AIDS conference, finally returned to the United States this summer after 22 years. Do you know why? Because President Obama finally lifted the horrific HIV travel ban in November 2009. In 1987, the United States banned non-citizens living with HIV from entering the United States. Today, there are still 46 countries with some travel restrictions for HIV positive people.
Only if people are open about their status and participate in educating others can human rights violations such as these be extinguished.
The message at this year’s conference focused on achieving an “AIDS-Free Generation.” This goal can only be achieved if people are enlightened about the importance of testing and treatment to help prevent the spread of HIV. Although, this was the first conference where for the first time in the history of the AIDS epidemic everyone was actually talking about a possible cure, the reality is that this may not happen for 10, 20 or 30 years. That is if it is even possible.
As an ethical vegan, I feel at the core of my being that I must speak up for the countless, innocent, voiceless victims of animal agriculture. As a person living with HIV, I must also speak up to help prevent the suffering of countless human victims.
I encourage everyone to please:
- Practice Safe Sex
- Get Tested
- Get Treated
- Get Involved
Only if we all participate can an “Aids-Free Generation” become reality. Please watch this video to learn more and sign The Washington D.C. Declaration today.
Kim Amlong has a Master’s degree in physical therapy and practiced physical therapy for five years. A devoted practitioner of yoga since 1997, she completed the Iyengar yoga teacher training program with Patricia Walden (her primary teacher) and assisted Patricia Walden with her classes for two and a half years. Kim has been an avid student and practitioner of qigong since 1999 and has completed courses in Kripalu and Para yoga. Kim served as the Director of Teachers for five years at Karma Yoga Studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During that time, she studied with Jesse Winder (owner of Karma Yoga Studio), and acted as a consultant, as he developed his own style of yoga, PhysioYoga. Kim has a keen interest in energy awareness and its health benefits and teaches an eclectic style that emphasizes anatomical alignment, relaxation, breath, body and energy awareness in a joyful, inspiring atmosphere. Kim encourages students to question everything and to feel confident in exploring postures best-suited to their individual needs and goals. She loves sharing the transformative benefits of yoga and qigong with everyone who is interested, and follows a vegan diet for her health, the animals and the planet.
Editor: Carolyn Gilligan