2016-world-aids-day-main-banner-en-slideI’ve missed my friend Tony for the past 19 years. He was in the first generation of white gay men who died of AIDS, back in 1997.

When Tony was diagnosed within months of this photo being taken, he was with full-blown AIDS. At that time, Tony had no access to the portfolio of drug therapies available to an HIV+ patient today. Those were the days of denial, experimentation, toxicity, and really, really tough side effects.

If you want to know what it was like in that era under President Reagan and his politicized regime that was blind to the public health crisis, read And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts which brilliantly, heart-breakingly, documented that moment in health history. Who a President selects for cabinet posts like the Department of Health and Human Services makes a huge difference in the public’s health.

We remember Tony and all our loved ones every day and especially today, on World AIDS Day. This health-holiday was started to raise awareness the preventability of HIV/AIDS, and mobilize partnerships, research, and treatment. This year’s theme is Take the Challenge. End AIDS.

tony-jane-and-susan-at-june-1986-wedding-300x257In the U.S., tragically, we’ve miles to go to get to ending AIDS. In 2015, 39,513 people were diagnosed with HIV. While the annual number of new diagnoses declined by 9% from 2010 to 2014, there are cohorts of young people practicing unsafe sex transmitting the virus — especially enabled through “hook-up” apps like Tindr which can foster spontaneous, unhealthy behavior when it comes to rational approaches to self- and community-protection.

HIV transmission patterns have shifted: in 2014, most cases (66%) of HIV occurred through male-to-male sexual contact. Heterosexual sex now comprises more cases than at the start of the AIDS epidemic, reaching 24% of new diagnoses in 2014.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  It’s more than time to erase the stigma of HIV/AIDS and get on with ensuring that the remaining 7 in 10 people in the U.S. get the care, stick with the care, and live well with the disease.

The key activation point is to get tested, and my friend Ramin Bastani started Healthvana to make accessing test locations, storing, tracking and sharing test results easy and technology smart. The Healthvana app enables a user to find locations of testing centers for STDs, and in a HIPAA-compliant way, have test results communicated back to the person.

In today’s healthcare financial environment, affording medicines can be a challenge. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance provides this list of drug companies and access programs that can discount prescription drugs for people managing HIV/AIDS.

Prince Harry, carrying on his Mum’s passion for public health and especially addressing HIV/AIDS, urges all of us to get involved in World AIDS Day, every day, here in this video he recorded for the charity, Sentebale. #FeelNoShame is the Twitter hashtag for their campaign.

Whether you’ve had a wonderful Tony M.-friend in your life or not…today and every day…remember that HIV is a chronic, treatable condition. We are not our diseases. Let us #FeelNoShame.