I was in my 6th grade classroom with my amazing teacher. This was the early 90’s and people were scared and more uncertain. I’m not saying that fear has dissipated but the initial mystery had us all frightened. My teacher gave us a lesson on what it is and how you can catch it, and mainly – all the ways you can’t catch it. I remember that conversation distinctly and how it helped alleviate some of my fear. Little did I know, I’d remember and need my teacher’s words not long after.
When I was 13, a few years later, someone VERY close to me pulled me aside and told me had contracted HIV. I was crushed and heartbroken. This was a family member, and one of the most important people in my life. I feared the unknown in general, but this was a HUGE unknown to me. Over 20 years later, this is still an important cause to me. Every week, over 7,000 young women around the world contract HIV – according to UNAIDS. That means that there’s a new young woman impacted every two minutes. Young women aged 10-24 are twice as likely to contract HIV as males the same age. Today, young people make up over 20% of HIV/AIDS cases in the US, and according to the CDC, young people between the ages of 13 and 24 account for just over one in five HIV diagnoses. This is staggering to me after all this time with what I have learned.
It’s over 30 years later, and HIV is still here. Not only that, 30% of people globally who are HIV positive don’t know that they are. The vast majority of people living with HIV are located in low and middle income countries. There’s an estimated 25.5 million living in sub-Saharan Africa and among this group, 19.4 million are living in East and Southern Africa. This group saw 44% of new HIV infections globally in 2016. 1 million peple died of HIV-related illnesses in 2016, according to the World Health Organization, and almost half of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Every day, 400 children newly contract HIV, with 290 children dying of AIDS related illnesses, according to UNAIDS – Children and HIV Fact Sheet July 2016.
For more information, you can check out Johnson & Johnson’s Make HIV History page here. Treatments for HIV have improved, including a promising possible HIV vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson which they announced at this year’s Global Citizen Festival. For more info:
Will you join us to make HIV history?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.