Reflections on World AIDS Day

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Elena Llinas, PhD, is the quality control specialist for the UI Health Community Clinic Network (UCCN), which operates six HIV community clinics throughout Chicago. She has been living with HIV since 2011. Here, she shares her thoughts on World AIDS Day.

For those of us that are HIV positive, World AIDS Day, celebrated Dec. 1, can be a challenging day.

photo of Elena Llinas

Elena Llinas, PhD
Quality control specialist for the UI Health Community Clinic Network (UCCN)

I did a quick Google search on "how to celebrate World AIDS Day," and what came up was not what I had in mind. Article after article suggested celebrating by taking measures for not contracting the disease. They called it "bringing awareness." One article even suggested that "the best way to protect yourself from HIV and other STDs is to be abstinent, which means choosing to not have sex." I couldn't helped but to roll my eyes. Similarly, other articles encouraged readers to "Get tested! Know your status! Stop the spread!" And although all of these tips are great for people without HIV, for those of us that have already contracted the virus, it can be a triggering time of the year.

The truth is that World AIDS Day is not meant to be celebrated by people with HIV but rather to bring HIV into everyone else's minds, so that they take measures to not contract it. This can make us feel lonely and even alienated.

But this year, I have decided to take a new approach. I cannot do anything about the fact that I am HIV positive. But I can celebrate the fact that I am healthy, happy, and proud of who I have become, despite my HIV status.

World AIDS Day was first conceived by two public information officers from the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in 1987. It was meant to be a day dedicated to not only raising public awareness of the AIDS pandemic but also to mourn those who had died of the disease.

Today, as someone living with HIV, I choose to celebrate Dec. 1 by acknowledging the beautiful lives taken too soon from us, their family members, and all the activists. I give thanks to those before me that have fought so hard to find a treatment and a cure for this terrible virus. This day, I choose to be grateful to the scientists and doctors that made it possible for me to take only one pill a day, rather than 25 or 30. I raise my hands in gratitude for those that have treated me with respect and even love after learning about my HIV status. This Dec. 1, I choose to be grateful for the deep bonds I have formed with others that have HIV, as we are now spiritually and forever connected.

Visit the UI Health Community Clinic Network (UCCN) page to learn more about locations and services.