If You Work In Tech What Might You Do This World Aids Day (World HIV Day)?
Each year when December 1st rolls around many folks, myself included, engage in some activism, light or strong; we repost an article or several from the New York Times, add a red ribbon to our profile pic, and might have something from the Red Campaign to purchase as a gift.
Yet, tech friends, no…Dear Tech friends. I have a new suggestion for you. Let’s Do something different.
The battle against HIV has been a crawl and hard long battle. Major resources are invested and often deployed fairly strategically in the world of public health— yet the math looks rough, increasing need and costs that are scaling faster than resources.
Some successes fighting HIV have been made; infections among women and children continue to drop, but rates among the most severely impacted communities continue to grow.
Here are two things I am putting on our agenda for Dec 1st.
Major research shows us that testing and treatment is an effective HIV Strategy. Test groups that might have higher risks and treat people who are infected so that they become untransmittable. The research also shows us that stigma is one of the biggest barriers to getting people tested and also treated. For example, in one study, 59% of men who had never been tested for HIV cited fear of negative social consequences as an important reason for not seeking testing. Making the the complexity of the relationship between stigma and testing widely understood is no easy task. However, I challenge you first to wrap your head around and then disseminate.
The fear of being perceived as HIV-positive is what prevents someone from testing, because they are deadly afraid of being labeled as bad, dirty, broken, etc. The consequences are robust. If one’s HIV goes undiagnosed due to stigma, then they could become sick, and an uncontrolled viral load means they have more of the HIV virus in their body making the virus easier to transmit to someone else. Say I go undiagnosed because of stigma, I could have an viral load and be exceptional contagious and most likely to spread HIV…why? Because I was so afraid of being labeled HIV poz I didn’t seek out prevention, testing, or treatment.
As technologists, I’d like to put your results oriented thinking to work.Solving stigma for every individual whatever its origins, is a huge but important challenge. Being diagnosed with HIV and then treated HIV is not a death sentence and quite manageable, and there are 100s of conditions far worse and less imaginable (even less sexy).
The second challenge for to you on World HIV Day, is based around the tech community’s often unapologetic impact drive for disruption . And with that I ask my dear tech friends, find a way to get involved with any non-profit working on HIV. Trust me they don’t realize you might be interested in sharing your unique expertise or access to resources. You can also join a facebook group tech4endinghiv . The global response to HIV has largely remained the focus of a slow moving public health space. Technologists can offer some rethinking to the product of HIV prevention — the same ruthlessness as you. Be global and localized. Bring everything you’ve learned and be prepared to learn a couple new things.
The tech community isn’t perfect. Often times, a disruptive perspective can bulldoze past institutional issues of racism, sexism, sex phobia, and several other blind spots . Yet I invite you to come join the HIV response because many institutions are eager to have your help even if they don’t speak your language yet.