On March 10th, those of us in the USA will observe National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. As a women living with AIDS, I experience a variety of emotions around “awareness days” like this. First, I’m glad we have our own day – it reminds me that I’m not alone and that the impact on women and girls is important enough for us to make a special day for the rest of society to take notice.
On the other hand, that leaves a whole lot more days in the year that the issues I care a great deal about don’t make it to the main stage. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate being prompted to comment (as I sometimes think we forget to do!) as an HIV+ woman. But perhaps more importantly, I’m commenting as a mother of two girls for whom I fight the spread of this disease every day. I’m also commenting as a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and, of course, as a woman. WE (in my house we refer to that as the “royal WE”…it means everybody) must change the way women (all women – all of our sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends) view our health, our bodies, and our risk for HIV infection.
HIV belongs to us, ladies. It belongs to us because it affects us all. Jae (one of our bloggers) wrote this week about not knowing she was at risk for HIV infection. Jae is not alone. There are literally millions of women around the world who are HIV+ right now – and most of them never knew or thought it could happen to them (to us). If you look at the home page of The Well Project website you will see our counter ticking away. It is counting the number of women infected with HIV since we launched the site. It is our reminder that HIV must be a part of our daily conversations, our education systems, our health care provider trainings, our women’s health messages – HIV must be talked about EVERYDAY, not just on special awareness days.
And, for those of us who can, HIV+ women must speak out and speak up to change the way the world perceives this disease. You and I can actually save lives. Every day. So, today, tomorrow, this week, this month, even this year – I challenge you to save lives. Save lives with your story, your voice, your experiences, your passion, your knowledge – your willingness to make HIV something to talk about, everyday.