The time has come! This July will be the inaugural National HIV Awareness Month (NHAM), an unprecedented opportunity to rally the American people through awareness and action to turn the tide of the HIV epidemic here at home. According to the CDC, nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV in this country. Further, every year approximately 50,000 more Americans become newly infected with HIV, an infection that we know how to prevent. We can change this reality for our families, our friends, our communities, and our country by re-engaging ourselves in the fight against HIV and AIDS. This is why the tagline for NHAM is “The Solution is all of U.S.”
The goal of National HIV Awareness Month is to re-ignite our national discourse on the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic in order to create broad-scale public awareness of HIV/AIDS, end HIV stigma and discrimination, and engage new stakeholders and partners in the fight against the disease. Our ultimate goal is to end the epidemic.
National HIV Awareness Month was created when AIDS United , amfAR , Black AIDS Institute , Latino Commission on AIDS , the Magic Johnson Foundation , National Association of People with AIDS , National Minority AIDS Council , The Well Project and the U.S. Positive Women’s Network came together last fall and issued a call to action to bring together community-based organizations, institutions and private sector companies to increase awareness about the impact of HIV here in the United States. Many companies, institutions and individuals quickly responded to this call and more are coming on board each day (see the growing list of participating groups here ).
Those wishing to participate in this first-ever observance of NHAM have a wide range of activities that they can organize or support during NHAM, such as HIV testing, HIV education, vigils, walks, displays, conferences, and more. Many creative and innovative activities are already being planned, such as employee and customer education, as well as HIV testing opportunities in the workplace, at sports events, and even in retail environments. For more news on NHAM activities, information about how to participate, a fact sheet, answers to frequently asked questions, sample Tweets, and more, visit www.nationalhivawarenessmonth.org .
On the last World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011, three U.S. Presidents came together to celebrate the historic progress that has been made in the fight against the global AIDS pandemic – progress that would not have been achieved without the leadership and generosity of the American people – and to announce the goal of an AIDS-free generation. This announcement highlighted the monumental advances that we have made over the past 30 years – including reducing the alarmingly high rates of new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as advances in treatment access and the demonstration of the effectiveness of treatment as prevention. But it comes at a time when we face an important challenge for us here at home. Thirty years into the epidemic, there is a declining sense of national urgency and visibility of HIV/AIDS, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2011 Survey of Americans on HIV/AIDS . The same poll indicated a decline in the share of Americans who report having seen, heard or read about the epidemic in the past year, from seven to ten in 2004 to four in ten today. If we are to realize the promise of an AIDS-free generation, it’s clear that we need to raise the level of HIV/AIDS awareness here in the U.S.
This July provides an unparalleled opportunity for a remarkable first observance of National HIV Awareness Month because of several concurrent milestone events. The American people will host the global AIDS community for the first time in more than 20 years as we convene in the United States for the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012 ). In addition, July 10th marks the second anniversary of the historic release of this country’s first National HIV/AIDS Strategy by President Barack Obama. And finally, the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed throughout NHAM all over Washington, DC culminating with a historic display on the National Mall and across the city just before AIDS 2012 begins. Collectively, these events give us the chance to engage Americans on a critical issue that deeply affects all of us. And if all of us work together, there is no doubt that we can turn the tide of the AIDS epidemic, not just globally but also here in our own country.
Please be a part of NHAM this July. We need you, as Americans, to stand up and say that 50,000 new HIV infections every year in the United States is NOT acceptable. NHAM is a call to action for Americans to work towards the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and ultimately, to an AIDS-free generation. Every voice that joins in this effort makes a difference!
To join and support our efforts, please visit www.nationalhivawarenessmonth.org , follow @HIVmonth on Twitter, use the hashtag #HIVMONTH and like us on Facebook . And thank you for all that you do. Remember – the solution is all of U.S.!