Despite COVID-19, we mustn’t forget HIV & AIDS epidemic

Dec. 1 was world AIDS Day.

Each year, it is a stark reminder of the epidemic that has taken away so many lives in such a brutal manner.

And in the midst of a global pandemic in COVID-19, it might be easy to forget that despite many advances, HIV & AIDS is still a global epidemic that so many people, so many families, still face.

In 1995, I saw my first uncle who was HIV+ die from complications from AIDS. It was one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever personally witnessed. 

Near the end, listening to him struggle to take a simple breath was next to impossible. The sound of strained breathing — it was as if he had a 20-pound weight on his chest — still haunts me to this very day. 

The last week of his life, he struggled with what appeared to be dementia, sometime not knowing where he was, other times unable to recall where the bathroom was.

Ten years later, another uncle died from the same complications, though fortunately, he didn’t suffer half as much as his younger brother had a decade earlier.

Though so many advances have been made that have allowed HIV & AIDS to no longer be a death sentence, it’s still got a stronghold in the world. Consider this:

• 38 million people were living as HIV+ in 2019.

• Nearly 2 million new cases of HIV were reported in 2019.

• Nearly 700,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2019.

• Nearly 76 million people have been HIV+ since the illness was first defined in the early 1980s.

• More than 32 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses.

• It is estimated that more than 7 million people were living, unaware they were HIV+.

These numbers are chilling, despite all the warnings of how dangerous this virus may be. Yes, we’ve made great progress.

But there has to come a day, soon, when not one life is lost to this hideous virus. Each Dec. 1, we’re reminded of that. 

Let us hope and pray that soon, when Dec. 1 comes, it serves only as a reminder of what happened in the past — and never again serves as a reminder of what could lie ahead.

— Canessa

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.