How You Can Help Make HIV History

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For many of us in the West, we consider HIV a thing of the past. In the rest of the world, HIV is alive and well. But even in the West, HIV remains a large threat to our youngest and most vulnerable people. Today I’m partnering up with Johnson & Johnson to to help #makeHIVhistory.

My personal connection with HIV

In college, one of my close friends was diagnosed with HIV.

I bore witness to the aftermath of her diagnosis: the fear, anger, denial, depression, and most of all – stigma – around the disease. She didn’t want to tell anyone.

An HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence, but it is a life changer. Everything about her life changed. We had to Google everything together to set up new “normals” and – essentially – a new life plan.

Meanwhile, an acquaintance was taking part in a clinical trial for an HIV vaccine – which was going swimmingly. He would be protected against HIV for life.

It almost didn’t seem fair. One friend was taking part in preventing (and helping eradicate) HIV permanently, while the other was up to her neck in any and every thing HIV-related. Here we were, on the brink of eradication, and now.. this.

When we hear about disease outbreaks on TV and online, it’s so difficult to feel connected to the cause. It couldn’t ever happen to you or your family – right? So why worry? It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t affect you. ..Right?


For me, it was personal. But it’s not just about my story: As long as HIV is being spread, we are all at risk. We are all Global Citizens and we are all in this together.

If HIV is an issue in your local community –  like it is in mine – then it’s time to do everything you can to prevent the spread of HIV.


The first step? Education.

HIV was discovered 34 years ago, but there’s still so much that we don’t know. A few quick facts about HIV globally:

  • According to UNAIDS, every week, 7,000 young women around the world contract HIV. That’s a new young woman impacted every two minutes. In fact, young women aged 10-24 are twice as likely to contract HIV as males the same ages.
  • In 2016, 1 million people died of HIV-related illnesses globally, according to the World Health Organization. Almost half of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Today, young people make up over 20% of HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S. According to the CDC, young people between the ages of 13 and 24 account for just over one in five HIV diagnoses.
  • Treatments for HIV have improved, including a promising possible HIV vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson which they announced at this year’s Global Citizen Festival.

Alice Lin Fabiano, Global Director of Global Community Impact at Johnson & Johnson, Global Director of Global Community Impact, a division of Johnson & Johnson that aims to help change the trajectory of health for the most vulnerable populations in the world through strategic partnerships (source):

“We hope that, with initiatives like these, we can help end HIV/AIDS within a generation,” Fabiano says.

I hope so, too.

We have the tools. We’re on the cusp of eliminating the spread of HIV through a vaccine. Let’s do everything we can to educate ourselves, our loved ones – particularly those within high-risk demographics – and everyone we meet about how to eliminate the spread of HIV.

Let’s #MakeHIVHistory.

Takeaways: Making HIV History – Locally and Abroad

Thank you for taking the time to read my post today. It’s a topic that hits close to home for me.

As for my friend, she is doing well. Really well, actually. She was really lucky – luckier than we could ever imagine. She didn’t get tested again until almost a year later, when we found out that her original test was a false positive.

I took probability 3x at MIT (don’t laugh!) so this was a well-known possibility. Still, nobody wants 2 positives, so she put off the second test for as long as possible. Though a false positive is less likely with the HIV test than some other tests,when tested on a random group a 99% accuracy rate still yields 91% false positives. Better take that test twice!

In any case, the experience prompted both of us – as well as a few other close friends – to dig in deep and bash the stigma and falsehoods surrounding HIV – like the ways HIV can and cannot be transmitted.

When I got tested, too, my doctor told me “You haven’t exhibited any risky behavior or behavior that could transmit HIV. So stop freaking out. This isn’t about you.” Ouch. True but… you know what? No but. It was true. This wasn’t my diagnosis; It was my time to step it up and be supportive.

It was time to be an ally, not a bystander.

If HIV is a problem in your community, find out how you can help. Yes, we are Global Citizens. We are also local citizens and community members. HIV is a public health issue; we need to do everything we can to limit the spread of HIV, so that it does not continue to put our community at risk.

To learn more about HIV & AIDS, check out the fact sheet here. For how to talk to a loved one who’s been diagnosed, here’s some good tips. Please also visit Johnson & Johnson’s Make HIV History page here.

As for the stat I shared below, well, that number should be 0.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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