HIV/AIDS Awareness Days in September
In the month of September, there are 2 national awareness days that we all should take the time to recognize and celebrate.
The first one being National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day and the second being National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
The importance of HIV awareness days
Both days are crucial in showing the community the importance of ending HIV stigma and discrimination. Recognizing both days does not only raise awareness throughout the community, but it also speaks to the need for HIV prevention within specific communities.
Specific communities still need education and information
Many communities of color are not aware that HIV prevention should still be a priority; infection rates are still high among Latinx and African American individuals.
Individuals of color are still not fully educated on things like PrEP and PEP or what it means to be undetectable. Being able to understand common terms like this can open up healthy conversations, including around disclosure.
National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day
National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day is recognized annually on September 18.
Various experiences of aging with HIV/AIDS
This day honors and commemorates the individuals living long and healthy lives with HIV. On this day, we recognize the long-term challenges HIV/AIDS can have on an individual.
This day is also meant for people who have lived long and fulfilling lives to speak up about the challenges and struggles that they have been through and what they have been able to overcome.
We live in a time when HIV is no longer a death sentence, especially with all the new medications that are out and all the campaigns around U=U (undetectable = untransmittable).
How I plan to recognize this awareness day
In recognition of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, I will be planning an event with efforts to bring awareness to the community.
I will be teaming up with our senior services department to gather stories of older individuals who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. My idea is to have audio and visuals of strong and thriving senior community members who have lived through the earlier days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
I want to gather their stories on how they overcame the battle against AIDS and how they have been able to live a long and healthy life with HIV. I also want to capture some moments when they were not thriving and how that has impacted the way that they navigate through life.
I feel that the younger generation does not know how much HIV/AIDS has changed over the years.
They do not understand that, even though much of the older generation survived the epidemic, many of them were close to not making it. I want the videos that I create to express the need for education on the history of HIV/AIDS as well as highlight some of the obstacles and struggles the older generation had to go through in order to still be here today.
Once I have all of the videos created and put together, I plan on displaying them at team meetings as well as in our monthly HIV prevention and education workshops.
National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is observed annually on September 27th. Just like National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, this day is to recognize the importance of HIV prevention and education within this specific community. According to the CDC, in 2018 about 69 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the United States were among gay and bisexual men.1
This awareness day is of personal importance
This specific national awareness day is one that is very personal to me because I am a part of this community.
I wish that back when I was 21 years old, I knew how high these statistics were; I wish that I had more information and basic HIV knowledge. I knew what HIV was, but I never felt that it would affect me in any way until the day I came back HIV-positive.
Growing up, I knew what World AIDS Day was, but I did not realize that so many other national awareness days were recognized. If national awareness days were highlighted more, I feel that many underserved communities would know basic HIV education and how to access things like free HIV testing or PrEP and PEP services.
I would have had more insight and a sense of community if I knew that a specific national awareness day for gay men and HIV existed when I was growing up.
Recognizing this awareness day
I will also organize a community event for this year's National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This event will be a community resource fair where I will invite partner organizations out for the day to promote HIV testing among gay and bisexual men.
Some other services that will be offered during the resource fair include food pantry services, housing navigation, mental health intakes, and STI screenings. I am in the process of getting swag items donated for raffle prices like water bottles, duffle bags, beach towels, and beach mats since it is still hot out and many people love to go to the beach.
Some of the items I have already ordered to give out are portable phone chargers, hand wipe keychain containers, and pocket hand sanitizers.
Showcasing the variety of available services
The majority of service that we will promote during this event is our social and support groups for gay and bisexual men.
Having other partner organizations at this resource fair will give the community a look at how many diverse groups are out there and how much support is actually provided to them. These groups range from things like social hours, game nights, movie nights, or therapy sessions. These groups are intended to help support the individual in any capacity that they need.
We will also include MSM (men who have sex with men) when it comes to targeting specific demographics. In the community that I work in, many men do not identify as gay or bisexual. Instead of looking at someone’s orientation, we look at the behavior that they are engaging in.
Overall, the community needs to know that HIV is still affecting gay and bisexual men. These awareness days are pushed to drive a need in communities most affected by HIV.
Do you live in the Southern US?