Today is World AIDS Day.

A day that recognizes the 33 million people worldwide who are infected with HIV – and the 25 million more who have already lost their lives. It recognizes the countless health workers and concerned individuals who are tirelessly working to stop this devastating pandemic. It reminds us all how important it is to continue working toward real solutions that impact health outcomes around the world.

When I first started working at a non-profit that fights infectious disease over a year and half ago, I didn’t know much about HIV. Today, I still might not know everything about the medical side of the virus, but I’ve seen firsthand the devastation it causes – and the hope that exists that HIV/AIDS can be defeated.

On my trips to Uganda, it’s easy to see the despair, the poverty, the pain. But to see only that, one misses a huge part of the people of that country. They have hope – hope for a life free of infectious disease, where each person has a greater opportunity to thrive in life. And doctors, nurses, and patients alike are dedicating themselves to this effort.

There are interventions and programs in place that are making a difference to millions of people who, thanks to these efforts, are living longer and more productive lives. And many countries have reduced their infection rate by at least 25 percent. Progress is being made.

Despite these promising developments and dedication to defeat HIV, much is still needed. There are so many ways that you can get involved. And what better day to do that than World AIDS Day?

  • Awareness is key – tell your friends about the work being done and the work that still needs to be done.
  • Advocacy goes a long way – the US has been a central player in the progress made so far, thanks in large part to Bush’s PEPFAR program and the continued work under the Obama administration. Tell your government leaders to continue supporting these programs.
  • Support prevention efforts or programs that are improving care. Find a non-profit to donate to.

Photo: A group of patients from the Infectious Diseases Institute in Kampala, Uganda perform songs and skits for thousands of other Ugandans, spreading messages of prevention, healthy living, and hope.

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