World AIDS Day

Wear your red ribbon, it’s World AIDS Day.

(Actually, I always forget to get a red ribbon for World AIDS Day. But that’s because I’m the kind of person who forgets their spouse’s birthday.)

Founded in 1998, World AIDS Day was a response to the big pandemic before the COVID-19 pandemic. World AIDS Day is “the first ever global health day.” Even if you don’t know anyone affected by AIDS, any day that highlights public health is A Good Thing. So yeah, wear your red ribbon.

On this World AIDS Day, I’m thinking about Isaac Asimov, who died of AIDS back in 1992, twenty years ago this year. At that time, Asimov’s family had to remain silent about the cause of his death because of the stigma associated with AIDS. Too many people still think of AIDS as the “gay disease,” or the “addict’s disease,” or the “unprotected sex disease,” or they somehow associate AIDS with some behavior that is somehow perceived as being immoral.

Isaac Asimov reminds us of all the people who get AIDS through some other more of transmission. Asimov got AIDS through a blood transfusion. There are first responders who have gotten AIDS while dealing with an emergency situation. The virus that causes AIDS pays no attention to human morality; it simply takes advantage of whatever means of transmission it can.

This is also a good reminder that trying to impose human moralities on transmissible diseases does not make sense from a public health standpoint. Forget the morality, and treat the disease. It’s equally silly to impose human politics on transmissible diseases, as we have seen during the COVID pandemic (e.g., a recent study sadly concludes that more Republicans died of COVID than Democrats).

So wear your red ribbon today. We still need to fight this major public health problem.