While December ushers a time of anxiety-producing pressure about what to get loved ones for the holidays, it’s also an opportunity to practice gratitude and generosity. For many, December 1 signals the time of finding the perfect Christmas tree and making checklists ensuring no one is forgotten on your gift-giving list. It’s also a moment when the international community comes together to fight a virus that has infected more than 70 million people since the start of the epidemic.
The world has come a long way since the AIDS epidemic first came to light in 1981, when five gay men in Los Angeles became the first documented cases. Confusion, politicized stigma, and silence magnified by the Reagan administration delayed progress in combating an illness that infected over 100,000 Americans by the time the President left office in 1989.
Yet today antiretrovirals (ARVs) proven to extend normal healthy lifespans have helped change common beliefs that HIV is a death sentence, and the prophylaxis (PrEP) brands like Truvada keep the transmission of the virus at bay.
As VICE’s Special Report on AIDS, The Countdown to Zero illuminates, the virus on not a health crisis of the past, with the 2014 Indiana outbreak largely spread through needles causing such severe concern that then Governor Mike Pence, known for his regressive stance against a needle exchange, supported the measure to contain the disease.
Today, treatment and prevention is a reality not just for the developed world but for places in the world where rates are the highest, thanks to President George W. Bush. While the 43rd President is often remembered for leaving behind a legacy of unpopularity largely related to the Iraq war, he also was known for his commitment to ending HIV and AIDS when his administration launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The initiative, which has provided free HIV testing and treatment to over 11.5 million people in over 35 of the hardest hit countries, is the largest international health initiative in history focused on a single disease.
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As the holiday season starts, PEPFAR’s partner Global Fund invites those looking for gifts to choose those that that make a difference.
With (RED), the brainchild of musical icon Bono and activist Bobby Shriver, gift-givers can aid in the fight to end HIV and AIDS by purchasing everything from Belvedere Vodka to Apple products, as portions of the proceeds are donated to the campaign. Through this year’s Shopathon, the choices are close to endless as Amazon has also joined the campaign, with the Bank of America donating 30 cents for every dollar spent on the online platforms (RED) section.
If material items aren’t your thing, for ten bucks you can buy a chance to be Channing Tatum’s personal guest at an exclusive Vegas party, or have a dinner date with Neil Patrick Harris and hubby David Burtka.