As I was walking down Wilton Drive this World AIDS Day holding the hand of the man I love I was dismayed at the conversations and lack of respect that was presented by the other walkers in the crowd.

Perhaps I am cynical or perhaps I am just a soft heart but the Remembrance Walk should be a walk of recognition for those we have lost to HIV. It is a time to think of the here and now and the battle we still face in regards to providing/maintaining healthcare for those infected with HIV, for reducing or eradicating the HIV stigma that permeates our society and keeps people from getting tested and into care. It is a time to come together in solidarity with the knowledge and understanding that we ALL play a part in bringing awareness to this disease and finding a way to not just control it but to eradicate it completely.

Perhaps for the millennials it is different. They did not see or know the loss that some of us have known in the past years of this plaque. Perhaps they have not had to watch loved ones die a slow death (both physically and emotionally). I guess I am just focusing on the MANY people I have lost due to this horrible (and still very current) disease.

I am not just talking about the people I have lost in past years. I am speaking of the four friends I have lost within the last few months due to illness brought on by an oppressed immune system. I desperately needed something, some way to mourn the losses. To show the universe the respect and love I had for them. This was not what occurred. Instead I left feeling disconsolate and incomplete.

I was also dismayed because in the past there were different events throughout the city, more recognition for World AIDS Day, and an effort to bring in people from all areas of the county. I did not see that this World AIDS Day. It seems that HIV/AIDS awareness is losing ground. Perhaps that is why there is still such a high rate of new infections? Awareness is necessary in providing education and testing to those who desperately need it.

– Anthony Johnson
20 Year Survivor of HIV