As a gay man and father, it angers me that we still have to talk about eradicating HIV/AIDS. The epidemic still continues despite all the deaths, the science, the knowledge, the breakthroughs – the heartache. Around the world, new cases continue to be discovered at an alarming rate. It’s as though people have forgotten what we’ve all been through – and maybe they have. Getting to Zero is an important program worthy of our collective support, and it aims to reduce new HIV cases to zero within the next 10 years.

I’ve lost more friends to AIDS than I can count. One of my closest friends, Tony Kopas died from AIDS nearly 25 years ago. A few years before that, one of my dearest friends in the world was diagnosed with HIV and has gone to unbelievable lengths to stay healthy. Lucky for us all, he’s still here and is a happy example of what’s possible with good information. Working together, we can all do this. Zero is within sight, within our grasp.

Tony Kopas San Diego

Tony Kopas was an exceptional friend, leader, and business owner. I can still hear his laugh!

Reduce New HIV Cases to Zero

I realize this subject is not all daffodils and bluebirds, and our readers may find it far different from our other posts. But my friends, we need to talk about this. New cases are still happening around the world and right here at home. I hope we can all take a moment to realize people are still getting infected, and do something about it. Gay, straight, bi, curious, trans – whatever. This is all of our issue, men and women both.

We’re old enough to remember the horror of watching friends die of this insidious diseases and its complications. Today’s generations grew up educated about HIV/AIDS, in a world where people who test positive are still finding ways to live. Drug therapies have helped, and perhaps education has helped even more. But clearly not enough. My fear is that the youngest of us – the age of my own kids – aren’t educated about keeping themselves safe. Or perhaps they think they are invincible.

Our kids deserve better from us. This is not a gay issue, this is a human issue. Did you know that about 19% of new HIV cases reported are from women? That there are more than 1.8 million children in the world with AIDS? That more than 5,000 new cases are reported each day globally? To think this disease does not touch us all personally is just naive.

Jon Bailey and Jeff Smith UCSB

Jeff Smith was a vivacious, hilarious, intelligent man of a life-of-the-party personality.

The good news is that these numbers are going down! If we keep working at it, talking about it with our kids, educating everyone, we can bring that percentage down to zero. And it starts right here in San Diego County.

Getting to Zero

Where we live in San Diego County, the Board of Supervisors has approved a program called Getting to Zero. The program goal is to eliminate all new HIV infections within the next 10 years. It’s simple really, if everyone follows these three easy steps that can be true anywhere: get tested, get treated and prevent further infections.

Get Tested

In San Diego County, one out of every ten people living with HIV are unaware they have it. TEN PERCENT! Ok that is just staggering, considering you can be tested for free. And this statistic goes for anywhere in the US, so don’t think it’s a fruity/nutty California thing. In the San Diego area, there are many places you can get free HIV testing.

Jon Bailey and Joel

I met my friend Joel Toner in college and I loved his creativity and courage.

Get Treated

Another surprising statistic is the one-third of people living with HIV in San Diego County are going untreated. People, come on. The latest drug therapies allow HIV-positive people to live long, healthy lives without the risk of transmitting to others. In San Diego County, there are a number of places to receive treatment for HIV/AIDS. The drug PReP has proven successful in protecting uninfected people from becoming infected with the diseases if taken consistently.

Prevention

Please talk about this with your family and friends. I know it’s not a fun subject, and hard to discuss. But if we talk about HIV/AIDS and how we can prevent each other from getting infected, we really can eradicate this scourge. Spread the word, share this post, go to getting2zerosd.com for more details.

We can reduce new HIV cases to zero.