It's an uncomfortable subject, but it's one that we can't ignore. World AIDS Day is December 1. While it may be a sticky and prickly topic, it's not a game that we can triffle with. HIV/AIDS is a subject which we owe the due diligence of paying attention to and addressing, especially since it is a non-discriminatory offender that will attack people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion or any other type of description.
In other words, none of us are immune from the risks, so listen up, because the game will play us unless we start learning how to handle the rules.
The statistics show that one in four people don't know they have the virus — and even more alarming — one million people will die this year from HIV because they don't know they have HIV or aren't on treatment. That number comes from the World Health Organization, which is one of the many organizations helping to inform, prevent and provide services for those affected by HIV.
Despite the numbers, the theme for the 2018 observance is “saving lives through leadership and partnerships,” and Houston already has taken the lead in the cause. If you haven't made plans for World AIDS Day, the multitude of Houston-based services has you covered with these many events. Take a look below and see which one suits your fancy:
1. AIDS Foundation Houston Luncheon - Friday, November 30
Even though December 1 is marked as World AIDS Day, Houston is skipping ahead by one day and having the World AIDS Day luncheon on Friday, November 30 at The Ballroom at Bayou Place, 500 Texas. Nothing says "prepared" than by being a day early. Registration is at 11:30 a.m. and the luncheon begins at noon. Chaired by Jacob Sudhoff and Jerry Hooker, the tickets start at $100 and the guest speaker is none other than actor Tituss Burgess - made famous from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Lauren Brooke with AIDS Foundation Houston recognizes the need for more awareness and testing based on the numbers she encounters each day.
"World AIDS Day serves as an opportunity for us to both remember those we have lost and where we have been, but also to acknowledge the work being done to get us to zero new HIV transmissions. Houston ranks 11th in the country for new HIV transmission, with 26 percent of those being diagnosed with AIDS," she says.
We're Houston Strong, and a race to zero sounds like a challenge we're ready to face, even if it means we have to call in the recruits.
"We know we can't change those numbers alone. It takes the preventative and stabilizing services AIDS Foundation Houston provides along with the comprehensive community healthcare provided by Avenue 360 Health & Wellness which is why both agencies will again be benefiting from the event. Together, we are normalizing HIV prevention and treatment, and are working to change those stats and make Houston the first city to get to zero."
It is a lofty and formidable goal, but it's one we support. Count us in.
2. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Avenue 360's HIV Prevention Program - Saturday, December 1
As she mentioned, Brooke isn't alone in her thinking. It really does take a village to tackle the big hairy audacious goal of defeating HIV/AIDS. That's where Avenue 360 Health & Wellness steps in. The organization will host its second annual 3rd Ward Community Block Party from noon to 4 p.m. at 3260 Truxillo. Admission is free, and fun is guaranteed. Health screenings are also part of the mix, along with the the games and entertainment. Show up and show out for this up-and-trending event.
3. University of Houston's World AIDS Week
Why choose just one day when you can have an entire week? Already underway, World AIDS Week is held each year at UH in conjunction with World AIDS Day. Designed to honor those individuals living with HIV and to memorialize those who have passed in its wake, the week includes lectures and discussion groups centered around AIDS awareness, a stand against the stigma of HIV/AIDS, a resource fair, and a screening of "I Am Life" by The TRUTH Project. UH's LGBTQ Resource Center will also offer on-campus HIV testing, which is available year-round.
4. Legacy Community Health World AIDS Day Observance - December 1.
Join the day of remembrance at Legacy's Montrose location. There will be a brief program with guest speakers, followed by a walking candlelight vigil. The HIV testing hours have been extended to 5:30 p.m., and knowledge is power, so take advantage of this opportunity.
5. 2018 World AIDS Day Observance at the Rothko Chapel - December 1
If you're more in the mood for solitude, the Rothko Chapel might be the answer. In partnership with The oH Project: Oral Histories of HIV/AIDS in Houston, Harris County, and Southeast Texas, the organization will host a morning observance, complete with live music, personal testimonials and guided reflection. It will also offer a space for reflection and healing for those who have been directly affected by the virus.
A Few More, for Good Measure - PWA Holiday Charities and the Thomas Street Health Center:
Though December 1 is designated as World AIDS Day, it's is a year-round fight, and there are plenty of ways to get involved throughout the calendar year. One of the leading organizations we haven't mentioned yet is PWA Holiday charities, which is built of several civil servants dedicated to helping those dealing with HIV/AIDS.
PWA Holiday Charities is a 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt organization consisting of a small-but-fierce group of dedicated volunteers who strongly believe the need and compassion for everyone living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. The organization, funded completely by donation, distributes all its monies for the betterment of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS during the holidays.
Another organization worth mentioning is Thomas Street Health Center. Harris Health System's Thomas Street Health Center is a freestanding HIV/AIDS clinic, which provides medical care, psychological and social services to HIV/AIDS-positive patients. Physicians from Baylor College of Medicine and UTHealth provide primary and specialty care services.
As the saying goes, we all want to leave the world a little better than when we entered it. During the holiday season, and with World AIDS Day on the precipice, we might just find a way to give back. Find the one that speaks to you (there really isn't a bad choice in the mix), and let's make this world just a little more welcoming and warm.