For 25 years, millions all over the world have joined together to unite in the fight against HIV on World AIDS Day. These days the fight has receded from the headlines, but the epidemic continues to affect millions, especially here in Florida, where over 125,000 Floridians are living today with HIV. This affects you, me, and so many families in communities across our state.
While new medicines have given those living with HIV an opportunity to live a longer and more fulfilling life, the fight to spread life-saving information and medicine continues to compete against prejudice, ignorance, and apathy. Florida ranks third in the nation for the number of people living with AIDS, and Miami-Dade and Broward Counties lead the nation in the number of new infections.
As Floridians, we therefore have a special obligation this World AIDS Day to fight for those in our communities who are suffering. Here are some ways you can get involved:
Talk to your elected leaders. Visit your member of Congress or your state legislator to remind them that people living with HIV/AIDS need our support. Florida’s Medicaid program is among the stingiest in the nation for those living with HIV, and state legislators should find ways to make it easier for those suffering to get the help they deserve.
Just a few days ago, Congress unanimously reauthorized the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the United State’s historic initiative to saving the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world. Thank your member of Congress for supporting this initiative – but remind him or her that we need this same bipartisan support for those living with HIV in America.
Get tested. 1 in 5 people infected with HIV don’t know it. Click here to find a testing site near you.
Fight the stigma. For millions living and struggling with HIV, your solidarity means so much. You can show your support on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness and support.
World AIDS Day is also a valuable moment for us to recognize a courageous grassroots group working to engage communities on behalf of those living with HIV and AIDS. I am proud to give special recognition this to year to the Florida HIV/AIDS Advocacy Network’s remarkable work.
Too many people still do not know the facts about protecting themselves and others from HIV, and too many people suffering from HIV or AIDS lack the medicine they need. This World AIDS Day, let’s remind ourselves that HIV remains an urgent problem for thousands of Floridians. I hope you find a way to make a difference in this important cause.
Chair, Florida Democratic Party