world aids day

Red Ribbons, Flowering over the Hearts of Women in Tanzania

Photo from World AIDS Day demonstration in Kibosho, Tanzania

Photo from World AIDS Day demonstration in Kibosho, Tanzania

by Arwen McKechnie

Sunday marked the 25th year of remembrance and action on the worldwide pandemic of HIV/AIDS. According to UNAIDS, since AIDS was first identified in the 1980s, it is estimated to have killed 30 million people around the world. There are currently approximately 34 million people living with HIV globally, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

HIV/AIDS is framed differently here in Tanzania than it is in Canada: though all that stigma continues, the prevalence of HIV means that people are aware of the disease in ways that they are not in Canada.

While in Canada, women are becoming a larger percentage of the people living with HIV, in sub-Saharan Africa women have been the majority from almost the beginning. HIV in Tanzania is primarily spread through heterosexual contact, so there is no pretence that infection is something that only happens to certain people who engage in certain behaviours, in the way that there still is in Canada.

Red ribbons flower on street signs, as graffiti on walls, on the t-shirts of women and men walking through the busy streets of Moshi, the town in which I live.

Moshi is the main city of Kilimanjaro Region, home to the mountain and associated tourism, and many agricultural communities growing coffee, bananas and maize. Mount Kilimanjaro dominates the horizon when it’s visible and is hidden behind a wall of clouds so completely at other times that you could forget it is there. It’s a beautiful place.

The social problems that lurk beneath the beautiful scenery and pleasant greetings from strangers are the same ones found everywhere: poverty, youth unemployment, substance abuse, domestic violence. Social problems are also treated differently here; whenever possible, problems are dealt with within the family, or an extended circle of friends. Read more

Posted on by Arwen McKechnie in Feminism Leave a comment

Recommitting to the Vision of a World Without AIDS

by Jarrah Hodge

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day. Over two decades since the first World AIDS Day was recognized, much has been achieved. But unfortunately the prevention and treatment tools that have been developed still aren’t available everywhere for everyone. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the day’s theme until 2015 to be: “Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV Infections. Zero Discrimination. Zero AIDS Related Deaths.” But As Kai Wright points out in a post at Colorlines:

Globally, those who have access to social and economic capital avoid the virus or, when infected, live healthy lives with it. Elsewhere, infections and deaths continue to mount.

Wright continues:

These three slices of black America—queer men (however we identify), women and transgender people—hold some of the least social and economic capital in this otherwise wealthy and comfortable nation. In fact, what’s true in HIV is true in just about every other aspect of life in the U.S. Pick the indicator of distress, and you’ll find these groups ranking near the top of those who struggle. HIV is and has always been an excellent measure of who societies value and who they don’t.

Stephen Lewis’ Worlds AIDS Day message talks about how looking at HIV/AIDS on a global scale shows the same inequality. The top ten countries with the highest percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS are in Africa:

Two and a half million new infections last year; 330,000 are children. More than 50% infected in Africa are women…AIDS must be restored to the international agenda. The one place where it’s never been off the agenda is at the grassroots in Africa.

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, LGBT, Politics, Racism 1 Comment

World AIDS Day 2011

Today is World AIDS Day and I’ve been collecting some of the videos coming out for y’all. But first, here are some things can be done to try to “get to zero” new cases of HIV/AIDS and improve support for people living with HIV/AIDS:

- Take care of yourself and your partners. Get tested for HIV.

- Take control and negotiate safe sex.

- Take steps to educate yourself on HIV/AIDS. To start, the Canadian AIDS Society has some good resources.

- Take a minute to learn about the problems with Canada’s Access to Medicines Regimes (CAMR) and urge your federal politicians to act now to make the reforms necessary to ensure people with HIV/AIDS in foreign countries can access life-saving medicine.

We also need to remember that sexism, homophobia, racism, and colonialism are all factors in AIDS transmission. The vast majority of new AIDS cases worldwide are among young women, demonstrating the link between gender inequality and the risk of infection, heightened by gender violence, pressure on young women to have unprotected sex, and inadequate sex education.

As to homophobia, in many countries sex between men is even more stigmatized than in North America, and is sometimes even criminalized. Having to hide same-sex relationships means MSMs are often unable to negotiate safe sex or seek testing or treatment for HIV/AIDS.

Finally, in Canada black people and First Nations people are dramatically overrepresented. Aboriginal people made up 11% of new infections in 2009, despite comprising only 3.8% of the country’s population. According to Ken Clement, CEO of the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network: “However, discrimination, ignorance and stigma cause serious road blocks – in our communities and in places where our people receive health care – and challenge our ability to meet these basic rights, which threatens the very integrity of Aboriginal families.”

Any long-term strategy to “get to zero” will need to account for the ways in which social stratification and inequality influences HIV transmission.

So now onto some videos from this year’s World AIDS Day:

Wendy Williams and the National Minority AIDS Council say “HIV Ends With Us”

In his World AIDS Day address, President Obama vows: “We will win this fight.”

Brent & Eliot get tested for HIV in this episode of the web series “It Gets Betterish”. Contains NSFW language.

And finally, though obviously not from this year, enjoy Blanche setting Rose straight on the fact that “AIDS is not a bad person’s disease.”



Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, LGBT, Racism Leave a comment