Tuesday, December 4, 2018

30th Year Anniversary World AIDS Day

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Charles Edward Clifton, Jr.
February 11, 1959 - August 15, 2004

As we commemorate the 30th Year Anniversary of World AIDS Day, on December 1, 2018, Charles E. Clifton, Jr. is remembered as one of the National leaders in the field. Were he here today, he would be speaking someplace making people aware of the disease; how to prevent it and how to take care of those that have the disease. Charles made significant contributions as a health advocate for nearly 15 years before his death at age 45 on August 15, 2004. Charles has roots in Louisville, MS as he is the son of the late Claudell Hughes-Weaver, grandson of the late Betsy Ann Eichelberger and nephew to this writer.

Charles became an activist in AIDS programs while living in San Francisco in 1991. He received a bachelor’s degree in U.S. history from San Francisco State University in 1993, master’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1994 and another master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 2002. Charles became the first person to serve simultaneously as executive director and editor of Test Positively Aware Network (TPAN). He became the first African American editor of the internationally distributed HIV/AIDS journals, “Positively Aware” and “Positively Aware en EspaƱol”. He held those positions until his unexpected death of a pulmonary embolism after returning from the XV International AIDS Conference, 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Charles worked tirelessly locally and nationally increasing awareness of HIV/AIDS until his death. For his many contributions, affiliations with various organizations, achievements in health and treatment education and HIV/AIDS awareness and his work particularly among gay men of color, he was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame.
World AIDS Day 2018 had as its theme “Know Your Status”. Understanding the importance of knowing one’s status is of the utmost importance. Nonetheless, barriers to education and testing remain a problem in many countries. World AIDS Day was set aside in 1988 by the World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programs for AIDS Prevention, United Nations agencies along with governments and civil organizations worldwide. Each year World AIDS Day has a different theme but awareness is the basic principle. It takes place every year on December 1.

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away. Money continues to be raised to increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education. However, AIDS related deaths have been reduced by more than 51% since it peaked in 2004. It is reported that 20 million people now have access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. Regrettably, around 7000 young women aged 15-24 years acquire HIV, according to World AIDS Day reports.

Many people have died unnecessarily because they did not know their status and therefore, were not treated. The reasons are believed to be stereotypical prejudices which cause people to be embarrassed or to deny. World AIDS Day is designed to increase awareness about the disease. The intent is to provide information and offer education.

United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has the ambitious goal of diagnosing 90 percent of those who are HIV/AIDS positive; providing antiviral therapy (ART) to 90 percent, and achieving viral suppression of 90 percent, otherwise known as 90-90-90, by 2020. In order for this to happen, people who have unprotected sex must be tested. The agency reports that great advances have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of illness. One in four people living with HIV/AIDS knows their status.

In 2018, UNAIDS reports the known cases of people living with HIV in 2017 without children:
  • East and Southern Africa; 19.6 million.
  • Western and Central Africa; 6.1 million.
  • Asia and Pacific; 2.2 million.
  • Western/Central Europe and North America; 2.2 million.
  • Latin America; 1.8 million.
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia; 1.4 million.
  • Caribbean; 310,000
  • The Middle East and North Africa; 220,000.
“Know Your Status” by being tested in private at home, the local department of health, or in the doctor’s office. The Federal Drug Administration website offers a database of testing sites and a detailed list of approved HIV test kits.

The 2018 Presidential Proclamation was issued by Donald J. Tromp on November 13, 2018 which stated, “With American leadership, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has shifted from crisis toward control. Hope and life are prospering where death and despair once prevailed. A generation that could have been lost is instead thriving and building a brighter future. For the first time in modern history, we have the ability to sustainably control an epidemic, despite the absence of a vaccine or cure, and create a future of flourishing, stable communities in the United States and around the globe.” He urged all Governors of the States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and American people to join him in appropriate activities to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support and compassion to those living with HIV.

Submitted by: Elmetra Patterson