December 1 is World AIDS Day.

These past few days I’ve been helping lead a training on volunteer management in Uganda with one of our partners. In visiting with the Dir. of the program there I found that World AIDS Day is being celebrated this year by trying to get people to get out and be tested. It’s important to know your status. I know mine, do you know yours?

The goal of this World AIDS Day is to not only increase awareness but to get 1 million people tested. This director that I met had his whole family tested. His two little girls are negative (ages 3 and 5) but he and his wife are positive. They are both on ARVs for the rest of their lives.

A local pastor talked about how some churches are convincing people that they do not need medicines but only faith to be healed. They are then stopping ARVs and dying. He went on the local radio where they were hoping to use a pastor to reach the pastors to encourage that while faith is imperative, only a doctor can declare if someone is healed.

In Uganda the Ministry of Health is estimating that one million people are HIV positive with 300,000 needing ARVs. However, they estimate that of those 300,000 only half are receiving them because the other half has not been tested due to stigma, fear, or denial.

There is a lot of education and testing and treatment going on around the world. What can you do where you are right now?

1. Get tested, go to a clinic or your doctor and get tested. Know your status. I do not fall into a high risk category (no sex, no IV drugs, no blood transfusion) but working in a program dealing so intensely with HIV/AIDS I felt it was important to know my status. How could I encourage others to be tested if I had not?

2. Educate yourself. Reasearch online, in the library, ask questions, do not be afraid to break down the stereotypes and fears that you may have.

3. Volunteer somewhere. Learn about local options or international options. The need will always be there if no-one stands up to help. Please stand up.

4. Donate to HIV/AIDS research and relief. I encourage you to do so through CRWRC to the Embrace AIDS Campaign.

5. Remember the thousands who have died from this horrific disease in the past and pray for those they have left behind. Also pray for healing of body, mind and spirit. Pray for those who are working in the HIV/AIDS arena to have compassion and hope.