Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Here is a description of this annual observance, as stated on the World AIDS Day website, “World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.”
The first ever global health day. That is quite a distinction. Now there are other global health days, including World Hepatitis Day.
Diseases have no borders. HIV, viral hepatitis, TB, influenza, and other infectious diseases don’t require passports or visas in order to visit us. It is incumbent upon us to provide health care to everyone. It is the humanitarian thing to do; it is also the right thing to do.
In honor of World AIDS Day, I am reminded of my favorite speech delivered in 1992 by Mary Fisher. A prominent woman with ties to Washington, Fisher addressed the Republican National Convention as a person living with HIV. Her speech was a call to action.
“We may take refuge in our stereotypes but we cannot hide there long. Because HIV asks only one thing of those it attacks: Are you human? And this is the right question: Are you human? Because people with HIV have not entered some alien state of being. They are human. They have not earned cruelty and they do not deserve meanness. They don’t benefit from being isolated or treated as outcasts. Each of them is exactly what God made: a person. Not evil, deserving of our judgment; not victims, longing for our pity. People. Ready for support and worthy of compassion.”
People. People deserve quality health care. Now. Not tomorrow. Now.