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We can break the HIV epidemic for good in the next 5 years — but we all have a role to play in it.

A lot of progress has been made in the fight against HIV. Now it's time we talk like it.

We can break the HIV epidemic for good in the next 5 years — but we all have a role to play in it.
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Gates Foundation

It's truly remarkable.

In 2015, if you're HIV-positive and able to access treatment, you can live a life as long and as healthy as someone who's HIV-negative.

Over the past few years, medical advances in HIV treatment and prevention have changed what it means to live with the virus. Heck, now there's even a little blue pill that can prevent it altogether.


HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was.

But, despite huge medical advancements, the stigma and misconceptions around HIV remain as powerful as ever.


The number of times HIV has been contracted through saliva or by contact with a toilet seat is 0. All images from The Stigma Project, used with permission.

The way many of us still talk and think about HIV/AIDS doesn't reflect reality.

Those stereotypes we all hear? Outdated. The myths? They're just that — myths.

HIV has been stigmatized for a long time, and that fear and stigma continues to be a big roadblock to reducing infections and beating the global epidemic.

Negative attitudes and prejudice against HIV make it way less likely for people to get tested, seek treatment, or disclose their status with partners. Public misinformation and fear contribute to an environment that sees HIV in an inaccurate and often insulting light.

At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the disease was seen as a punishment for participating in "deviant" behaviors like non-hetero, non-married sex or drugs, and while medicine has advanced, regressive attitudes have yet to catch up.

If we want to get rid of the shame and discrimination around HIV, we have to start with how we talk and write about it.

Specifically, we need to familiarize ourselves with the difference between HIV and AIDS.

HIV does not equal AIDS. Here's a helpful guide from The Stigma Project.

The good news? We're still making a lot of progress on the medical front.

Just this year, Cuba became the first country declared to have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 17 other countries and territories across the Americas (including the United States!) show they may have done the same.

New global HIV infections have fallen by 35% since 2000, and AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by 42% since 2004, according to UNAIDS.

It's great to hear, but we can do even more.


Chelsea Clinton knows. Image by The Stigma Project, used with permission.

World leaders have a plan to get new HIV infections to drop by 89% and AIDS-related deaths by 81% by 2030.

As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, a fast-track plan has been created to end the epidemic by scaling up approaches to working with specific locations and populations in 30 countries.

"We have bent the trajectory of the epidemic," said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. "Now we have five years to break it for good or risk the epidemic rebounding out of control."

We're at a tipping point toward reversing the HIV epidemic — and the next five years will determine if it happens.

UNAIDS reports that if prevention and treatment efforts are scaled up drastically in the 30 countries that account for 89% of new infections worldwide, we have an incredible shot at reversing the epidemic. If not, we're likely to end up with higher rates of new HIV infections than we have today. A lot is riding on the next five years.

"If we invest just $3 dollars a day for each person living with HIV for the next five years, we would break the epidemic for good," said Mr Sidibé. "And we know that each dollar invested will produce a $15 return."

While doctors and the researches are hard at work on the medical side of things, the rest of us could make a huge difference in advancing the cause just by changing the way we talk about HIV and AIDS.

More knowledge and less judgment means approaching HIV and AIDS in a realistic way, without myths and falsehoods keeping us from eradicating it once and for all. It also means we'll all be able to live in a healthier and safer world.

Count me in.

Image by The Stigma Project, used with permission.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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