Today is World AIDS Day, so I’m continuing my tradition of sharing stories and statistics about parents and children with HIV/AIDS, especially since our current president, in his proclamation for the day, has refused to specify any of the communities disproportionately affected by the disease.
Compare President Obama’s proclamation last year, in which he notes “gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, black and Latino Americans, people living in the Southern United States, and people who inject drugs are at a disproportionate risk.” Yes, of course we should care about anyone with AIDS, but to ignore the hardest-hit populations is to give in to an “all lives matter” mentality that, while it seems inclusive, is hardly equitable and doubtfully effective. (See this cartoon if you want further explanation.)
First, two resources for stories about (mostly LGBTQ) parents with AIDS:
- Abigail Garner, author of the highly recommended Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is, has posted several excerpts from its chapter on AIDS. She includes stories of children growing up with gay parents during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, advice on how to support children with HIV-positive parents, and tips on how both HIV-positive and HIV-negative gay parents themselves can talk with their children about their status and how they are protecting themselves.
- The Recollectors, a storytelling and community-building site for those who have lost parents to AIDS, has posted numerous new stories. (See my interview with one of the two founders, both of whom had gay dads.)
Let’s also not forget the still-sobering statistics about mothers, children, and HIV/AIDS (statistics about fathers and AIDS seem harder to find):
- The good news (via UN AIDS) is that “New HIV infections among children have declined by 47% since 2010.”
- At the same time, as Avert tell us, “In 2016, an estimated 36.7 million people were living with HIV (including 1.8 million children)…. While new HIV infections among children globally have halved, from 300,000 in 2010 to 160,000 in 2016 (47%), reports indicate that there is much more that needs to be done to improve knowledge of HIV and HIV testing among adolescents and young adults. Young women are especially at risk, with 59% of new infections among young people aged 15-24 occurring among this group.”
- And while deaths in most age groups are decreasing, they are increasing in adolescents. Avert reports, “Young people (10 to 24 years) and adolescents (10 to 19 years), especially young women and young key populations, continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. In 2014, 3.9 million people aged between 15 and 24 years were living with HIV and 620,000 became newly infected with the virus. The number of adolescents living with HIV has risen by 28% between 2005 and 2015.”
- Additionally, Avert says, “In 2016, 76% of all pregnant women living with HIV accessed treatment to prevent HIV transmission to their babies—this is up from 47% in 2010 but a small decline by 1% from the previous year.”
Last year, Chip Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, noted in TIME magazine that “The end of AIDS in children is within sight. If we act purposefully and with ambition, we could welcome the first AIDS-free generation by 2020. The U.S. has played a transformational leadership role, supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, in funding and driving a coordinated global effort to both invest in prevention and treat people with HIV/AIDS.”
Fast forward. Last June, six members of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned, saying they did not feel they could effectively combat the disease “within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care,” reported the Washington Blade. And HuffPo reports today on other moves by the Trump administration that will negatively impact both health care coverage for people with HIV/AIDS and our ability to do research into ending the disease.
The epidemic isn’t over. Let’s make sure we continue to help, regardless of—indeed, because of—our government’s counterproductive stance.