World AIDS Day is December 1 and my reflections take me back to a time when the mere mention of HIV/AIDS would elicit feelings of fear, hopelessness, and despair. Fast forward to the recent COVID-19 pandemic and I shudder as I remember the devastation, the fear, and the despair. Both pandemics wreaked havoc on human life like a fast-moving tornado destroying everything it in its path. However the resilience of the human spirit and our innate need to survive carried us forward. We fought and continue to fight. Since 1985 FACES NY has remained steadfast in our commitment to serve underserved communities and to advocate for the health and social equity of community members. We are a community-based organization and from our founding, we have been integral to the communities we serve.
The CDC reports that nationally, in 2020, Black/African American people accounted for 42% of all new HIV diagnoses and Hispanic/Latino people accounted for 27%. However, in New York, we took a stance to End the Epidemic and we are making strides. The New York Health Department’s 2020 HIV Surveillance Report documented progress toward ending the HIV epidemic. According to the report, 1,396 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in New York City in 2020, down 21% from 2019. This is great news and a testament to the fact that together we can accomplish much. Still, there is a lot yet to be done. We have to continue to address stigma, health disparities, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, poverty, and other social determinants of health that put community members at risk for HIV infection.
Ending the Epidemic is not only for organizations but it is also for you and me as individuals. You may think that your effort is too small to count but each helping hand adds to the strength and power of the whole. Every time that you think about the things you cannot do, the time you cannot spend, the contribution you cannot make, think about the difference you could make in the life of someone, a family, or the community and just do it! Let World AIDS Day remind you of the many ways that you can make a difference in someone’s life.