Tonight at the grocery store my 7-year old stated definitively that this was the last day of November as she stared at the billboard size calendar in our local Whole Foods. I jumped on this open door for a teaching moment and asked her if she knew what tomorrow was…to which she replied with some apprehension, “Tuesday?” This child never makes it easy for me to talk AIDS with her, but I persevered nonetheless. “Yes, it’s Tuesday. It’s also December 1st, which is World AIDS Day.” After some lengthy discussion about what that meant and some surface discussion about how people might observe the day (most notably for my daughter, the wearing of red ribbons), my very astute child asks me, somewhat incredulously, “So, all we have to do is wear a red ribbon to make the disease go away?” Ahhh – out of the mouths of babes…if only that were so.
After all, that’s how it started. We began wearing red ribbons with the conviction that the world would take notice of the suffering, and the mounting, countless, unnecessary deaths, the devastated families, the societal burden…and realize that our brothers and sisters were falling prey to an almost entirely preventable disease, and collectively we could, we would, mount the response necessary to fix it. But it’s 2009, and our work is far from done.
This year marks the 21st World AIDS Day, both for the global community as well as for me personally as I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, the same year the first World AIDS Day was observed. This day is always a day of reflection for me – but it is also a day to re-engergize, re-commit, and rally for the fight against AIDS. Now more than ever, we have work to do! The Obama Administration has committed to developing and implementing our first National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the concerns of women living with HIV must be prominently addressed. Health care reform is a life or death issue for many of us, and our voices are urgently needed at all levels of the debate. Poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and violence against women continue to fuel this pandemic domestically as well as globally and we can no longer ignore the problem in our own backyard. And we must strip HIV of the power to stigmatize us by normalizing public perception of people living with HIV – do I have any takers for the National HIV+ Soccer Mom’s Association?? I know you’re out there!
As the mother of two young daughters, I have a lot of work to do. As a woman living with AIDS, I have a lot of work to do. I would like for my daughter to be able to tell her daughter that when she was a little girl, there was something called World AIDS Day, but because of brave women like us, they don’t have to worry about that anymore.
Dawn is the Founder of The Well Project and one of the Founding Advisors of the Positive Women’s Network (PWN). If you are not already a member of the PWN (either as a positive woman or an ally) please consider lending your voice to our collective strength in this fight. For more information contact Naina Khanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.pwn-usa.org.