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December 01, 2011

It's World AIDS Day!

By Michelle Reid

I love December 1st, not only because it's the day when men all over Canada shave off their terrible (but philanthropic) moustaches, but also because it's World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day ribbon

It's a cause close to my heart- I spent a summer in the Cook Islands interning with the Pacific Island AIDS Foundation and have worked, volunteered or researched for various HIV/AIDS projects and organizations.

This World AIDS Day, I encourage you to check out It's Different Now, a great new BC campaign advocating for routine HIV testing. If you've ever had sex, you should know your status!

Here are some sobering facts about HIV/AIDS in Canada:

  • As of 2009, there were approximately 65,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Canada
  • More than a quarter of them (26%) are unaware of their status
  • Aboriginal Canadians comprise 11% of new diagnoses, but are less than 4% of the population.
  • Prior to 1999, women represented 12% of all positive HIV tests in Canada prior to 1999; as of 2009, they are 26% of positive HIV tests.**

Those numbers can be frightening, but the truth is the vast majority of HIV tests are negative. And in the unlikely possibility that your test was positive, HIV is more like a chronic illness than the death sentence it was in the 1980s. There are effective treatments and therapies, and more being developed all the time. When it comes to your health, it's always better to take action.

I had a rapid HIV test during a recent UBC Sexual Health Fair, and even though I'm low-risk I felt a twinge of nervousness: What if the test was positive? What would I do? How would I react? Fortunately, there were kind and informative nurses to talk me through the process, and the relief I felt on seeing my negative test result outweighed my nerves. It's gratifying to know that I am informed about my health.

If you've never had an HIV test, get inspired by World AIDS Day! It's Different Now has a map of drop-in clinic sites. Talk to your friends about testing. Talk to your parents! During Pap Awareness Week we encouraged you to make a Pap test into a bonding experience and encourage the women you love to go to the Pap clinic with you. On World AIDS Day, we'd like you to take a friend to get an HIV test. You'll be doing the responsible thing and educating yourselves.

** Statistics from AIDS Committee of Toronto

Tag(s): Health/Health Advocacy, Sexuality Rights, Sexual Health, World AIDS Day

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Michelle is a freelance writer and anthropologist with a Master of Public Health from UBC. Her passions are promoting health and building community. She's worked in grassroots community organizations in Vancouver, Victoria and Oceania.


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