Warren Smokey Thomas and Eddy Almeida

OPSEU/SEFPO commemorates World AIDS Day

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Every December 1 since 1988, as a global community we come together to commemorate World AIDS Day, remembering all those who live with HIV/AIDS and those who have lost their lives to the virus.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the world’s most serious public health challenges. With millions of people affected by this pandemic directly and indirectly, we will pause and reflect on the advancements in HIV/AIDS treatment and recommit to continuing the work to eradicate this virus.

As we navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot lose focus on those who have suffered over the years and continue to fight stigma and ignorance. People living with HIV have to face multiple barriers, including, but not limited to, the prohibitively high cost of medications, and access to adequate health care and community services and supports. People living with HIV or AIDS continue to face ongoing and persistent discrimination based on their status.

There are also millions of people who continue to struggle for access to HIV testing services, which are an essential gateway to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

UNAIDS, the United Nations agency that works with government, the private sector and communities to fight the disease, reported at the end of 2020 that 27.4 million people with HIV – 73 per cent of the total – were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally. But that means that 10.2 million people are still waiting. Access to HIV treatment is key to the global effort to eradicate AIDS as a public health threat.

People with HIV who are aware of their status, and take ART daily as prescribed, can maintain an undetectable viral load and live long, healthy lives and have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partners.

With the advancements in medications, treatments and research, people now have the ability to live longer and more dignified lives. However, we must continue to educate all of society and promote learning and understanding of this virus. In spite of all of the progress made, the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS continues to be pervasive, which impacts an individual’s ability to be open and upfront about their status and the care they need.

The red ribbon is the universal symbol for awareness of, and support for, people living with HIV and AIDS. OPSEU/SEFPO encourages all of our members to wear a red ribbon as a reaffirmation of our commitment to be part of this fight, and part of the solution.

You can also take a selfie with a lit candle and post it to your social media in solidarity. Please also send that photo to equity@opseu.org so we can compile a collage of all of our images – standing together, though we are apart.

OPSEU/SEFPO’s Live and Let Live Fund supports the Stephen Lewis Foundation every year. With an annual donation and a silent auction at Convention, we are supporting the foundation’s work in helping communities affected by AIDS in Africa.

Make a donation today! Please make cheques payable to: Live and Let Live Fund and forward them to Matthew Da Silva, OPSEU/SEFPO, 100 Lesmill Road, Toronto ON  M3B 3P8.

For e-transfer information, please email mdasilva@opseu.org.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Joseanne Job, OPSEU/SEFPO Solidarity Fund Board Chair