It’s been nearly 19 years since I read a local newspaper article about 2 women – neighbors of mine, really – who had joined together the year before to establish a foundation to help end AIDS. I was immediately drawn to the story about their concern for the future faced by their children in a world impacted by AIDS and their ingenuity in creating a symbolic bracelet to raise funds and awareness.
In those days, AIDS was life threatening, and in fact, complications from AIDS had ended my brother’s life several years earlier. I had been searching since his death for a way to honor him by committing at least part of my life to the AIDS cause. I decided to inquire about Until There’s A Cure Foundation. My ‘career’ with the Foundation began with a phone call I placed to inquire about volunteering.
Friends, associates and acquaintances ask why I am still involved with the Foundation and why I commit so much of my energy and time to the cause. The simple answer is that AIDS is not over, and HIV is still being transmitted – in the U.S. and around the world. Although the Foundation would love to see that a cure has been found — and to be able to close our doors — that goal has not been reached.
Medical research has made great progress in the treatment of AIDS and, recently, in testing the prophylactic use of medications to prevent HIV infection following exposure. Many vaccine development research projects are underway. However, expectation is that vaccines which will truly end the pandemic are still years away. So, while we have hope, until that day, critically important work in education and prevention must go on.
Every day at Until There’s A Cure we encounter comments such as:
“I thought AIDS was over.”
“Can’t you just take a pill and not be sick?”
“That’s not a problem in the U.S. any more, is it?”
“This doesn’t affect me. I’m not at risk. I’m not in that population!”
The short response to these comments is that AIDS is still a devastating disease affecting individuals, populations and economies in the U.S. and, to an even greater extent, in Africa and Asia. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 5 people who are infected with HIV, don’t know it. And the virus is being transmitted at nearly the same rate as in past years, even here at home.
As to the comment about who is “at risk” — beyond those usually considered to be in danger — the reach of HIV infection was brought home to me recently when I heard the story of a graduate school student in a major West Coast university talk about having an intimate relationship with another professional on the East Coast for some time before she found out that he was HIV positive. Without common sense prevention methods that had kept her from being infected with HIV, that might not have been the case.
At Until There’s A Cure Foundation, we continue to try to disseminate information as widely as possible so that people are aware that HIV and AIDS are still with us; that even with medication, AIDS is life-changing and a physically and financially burdensome illness; that understanding and appreciation for prevention methods are critical – until there’s a cure.
That’s why I’m still involved. That’s why I serve as Board Chair of Until There’s A Cure Foundation. That’s why I’m writing this blog.
I hope you will join me and the Foundation in the fight against AIDS. To find out more, please view information on our web site at www.until.org, sign up for our email blasts, ‘like’ us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and pass all of this along to your friends and associates.
And remember that perhaps the greatest risk of HIV is believing it’s not a problem anymore.
Donna J Allen
Until There’s A Cure