Personal Reflections on World AIDS Day

by | Dec 1, 2022 | Blog

Take time to remember and reflect, and to recharge your soul.
By Jeff Berry, Executive Director

Today is World AIDS Day, where we take time to reflect, to remember and honor those who have gone before us, and celebrate our achievements as we chart a course toward ending the HIV epidemic. But for many of us, especially those who work in the field, we often hear and use the phrase, “every day is World AIDS Day.” I sometimes wish we had a day for when we didn’t have to think about HIV.

When I was first diagnosed in 1989, I was terrified, but I soon found a community of others just like me, who were afraid and only had each other to lean upon for hope and support. I’m so grateful to those who helped me find my footing, whether they knew it or not they gave me the tools to set off on a lifelong journey of discovery, growth, and healing from the wounds of my past, allowing me to help others to live and thrive successfully with HIV.

Many of the people I met then are now gone, not having survived the deadliest years of the AIDS endemic when we didn’t have any effective treatments. But I remember and think of them often, and wonder what contributions they might have made to the world. What artistry they might have created, songs that were never sung, laughter never heard, tears never shed, lives that were cut short from a virus that soon became a source of stigma to those who would acquire it. All while we had a president who wouldn’t even utter the word AIDS until thousands had already died, some who were outcast by their families and died miserable, lonely deaths, while others were cared for and supported by a community that came together to help.

Today we honor our predecessors by remembering and honoring them, and ensuring equity and accessibility to treatment, care, and support for all who are affected by HIV. The Reunion Project is proud to partner with CVS Health and Accenture in conjunction with World AIDS Day 2022, “to present a conversation on breaking the cycle of HIV misinformation, stigma and bias. Part of their ongoing LGBTQ+ Health Equity Speaker Series, this discussion includes panelists from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, Gilead Sciences, and The Reunion Project, the national alliance of long-term survivors of HIV.”

I am also honored to be part of the upcoming HIV and the Journey Toward Zero documentary, the trailer was released today, “that sparks the important conversation of what the end of the HIV endemic means—for those who have been there from the start, those who are living with HIV today, and those leading the way to an HIV-free future. Brought to you by Emmy-nominated, Black, Queer, filmmaker Chan C. Smith and told from the perspective of some of Chicago’s most prominent activists, HIV and the Journey Toward Zero spotlights a midwestern experience, a piece of HIV history that isn’t often shared.”

A lot of exciting things are coming in the year ahead for The Reunion Project, so stay tuned. I hope that today you take time to remember and reflect, and to recharge your soul. It is only by working together, creating community, and removing barriers to access and care that we will ever end the HIV epidemic, once and for all. We need everyone to play their part, because we cannot do this alone. The part you play is up to you, and we are here to support you in whatever way we can—we’re all in this together.

Going beyond surviving, to thriving, is the best way we can honor those we lost.