Opinion: Keep walking for HIV and AIDS

In the early 1980s the HIV and AIDS epidemic was at its peak and now as time has passed, being diagnosed is not as discriminatory or as deadly as it has been in the past.

During the peak of the epidemic, the stigma surrounding the illness caused those living with HIV and AIDS from having access to essential resources available. This also created a national stigma that the illness could only be contracted by sexually active gay and bisexual men.

This mentality brought on discrimination not only for the gay community, but for those living with HIV and AIDS seeking medical treatment.

The outlook for those diagnosed has significantly improved. Now an individual can live a longer life when regularly taking an antiretroviral treatment, or a combination of prescribed medication used to fight HIV and prevent the chances of passing it on to others.

Although there have been great advances, including reducing the required medication needed to, the fact that there are still many people that face and deal with this should not be forgotten.

People have become desensitized to the topic of HIV and AIDS in today’s society, however, we need to continue to support those who are still affected.

1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, while 1 out of 7 who have it are not aware they are infected. African Americans in low income areas continue to show higher rates of HIV with 44% but only representing 12% of the U.S. population, according to HIV.gov.

With all the advancements in technology, we still need to support those living with either illness in any way we can. Either by participating in the Long Beach Aids Walk, and promote sexual health programs throughout our schools nationwide to spread the awareness and help with the initial prevention.

By participating in the walk, people are contributing to inform the community that the epidemic continues to have a big impact in Long Beach.

All proceeds raised go toward support for local business and resources which are available for those infected with HIV.

According to The Long Beach Aids Walk website, the funds raised support HIV prevention services including HIV and STI testing, food pantries, PrEp and PEP counseling, as well as medication and group support.

We need to advocate for prevention drugs to be made more readily available. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEp) is the drug used towards the HIV prevention strategy on people that are HIV-negative but could be at risk of contracting HIV.

By supporting organizations that aim to offer resources that benefit the population living with either illness, focus on the initial prevention, and regularly discuss these issues the community can be proactive about the future health of Long Beach.