So You Think You Can Save the World?
With access to more information and technology than ever before, it’s easy to believe that we’re well on our way to saving the world, but we still have our work cut out for us. For instance, take the effect of HIV in our communities. If we look around, we find that:
- 2.6 million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV, but only one in three are on treatment.
- Half of children living with HIV will die before they turn two.
- 1.2 million HIV+ women give birth each year, creating the opportunity to pass the infection to their child.
- Every week 7,300 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV.
These numbers show that there is still much work to be done. On December 1st, the world marked World AIDS Day, a global moment to reflect on the progress we’ve made in fighting AIDS, providing treatment to those in need and tackling the work that is still left to be done.
Ending the AIDS epidemic is just one of the many issues plaguing our world that one can choose to champion. With time being of the essence, we need change to happen fast, making it easy to opt for the quickest solution. Saving the world, however, requires much more consideration than we may realize. It’s no longer enough to fight on one’s behalf; we must actively consider the voices of the most affected and work beside them. Before you put that “S” on your chest, ask yourself: “Do I really understand the issue at hand?”, “Do I know who I want to help?” and most importantly, “Do I know what that person ‘in need’ really wants?”
Consider the story of Ritah. She is a fifteen-year-old girl living with HIV in Kampala, Uganda who doesn’t feel comfortable seeking information because of the taboo surrounding the infection. She is also pregnant and concerned that her newborn will contract the disease. The “quick fix” is to provide medical treatment to people living with HIV; however, when you keep Ritah in mind, the “quick fix” is no longer a viable option. In addition to treatment, Ritah’s empowerment and community education around HIV/AIDS must be incorporated into the equation. The solution to Ritah’s problem cannot be solved without Ritah.
People like Ritah and people in similar situations had the opportunity to have their voices heard in the fight to end AIDS during a Twitter chat hosted by Fenton client Johnson & Johnson alongside the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Mothers2Mothers and Born Free in honor of World AIDS Day 2015. Twitter chats serve as an effective digital engagement tool to have productive conversations, present the entire scope of an issue as well as opportunities to collaborate between individuals, non-profit organizations and more. The #AIDSFreeFuture Twitter chat allowed everyone a seat at the table; participants included people living with the disease to health workers on the ground to advocacy organizations and everyone in between. Although there was a diversity of perspectives throughout, everyone agreed that HIV+ mothers, children and adolescents absolutely must be included in any solution. They must be in the driver’s seat if we genuinely want to see the end of AIDS through.
We all want to see change. Quick. However, in most situations, we may only have one shot at it, so we must make sure to make it count, and we must include the voices of those most affected. When good intentions and good listening come together, the world gets a little better.