In my family practice in Markham this week, I met with a new patient who had just been given a diagnosis of HIV infection. This is shocking news for anyone to receive. In my experience, a patient will accept a diagnosis of HIV infection with a range of responses from denial to panic to despair. It is my task to learn about each unique situation and to find out how I can help my patient to face this new challenge in the healthiest way.
I am the primary care provider for dozens of patients who carry HIV. From a medical and social perspective, these patients present with complex circumstances to be addressed. But caring for these patients (and their families) has been one of the most satisfying parts of my career in family medicine. While HIV infection remains among the most devastating diagnoses that I have to discuss with patients, I also have the privilege of offering hope. I can reassure each person that the infection is treatable. I know that when treatment is necessary, each person will be able to access the care they need. With the right treatment, it is reasonable to expect that, in Canada, a person with HIV infection will never develop AIDS.
I wish that were the case everywhere in this world. It is not. Not yet. But it could be. It is now realistic to envision a world without AIDS. I intend to do what I can to make that vision a reality as soon as possible.
In just a few days, on December 1, I will recognize World AIDS Day by making donations equivalent to one day’s pay. I will donate to two outstanding Canadian organizations that do fabulous work to assist people affected by HIV. Those organizations are the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Dignitas International.
This is the 10th year in a row that I have donated a day’s pay on World AIDS Day. I look back on those 10 years and realize how much has been accomplished in response to the AIDS pandemic. You can have a look below at my trip down memory lane as I review the evolution of “Give a Day to World AIDS”. I’m heartened to realize that the number of people who can now access antiretroviral treatment has increased almost 25-fold since Give a Day started. But there are still millions of people living with HIV who do not have access to this life-saving therapy.
With enough vision, generosity and determination, a world without AIDS is possible. One simple, practical step everyone can take is to give a day’s pay on World AIDS Day. This year, will you please support the Stephen Lewis Foundation and/or Dignitas International? One day will make a difference. On World AIDS Day, let’s not focus on the diagnosis that triggers despair. Let’s focus on the donation that offers hope. On December 1, please Give a Day.
A Brief History of “Give a Day to World AIDS”
~ There were about 30 million people in the world infected by HIV at that time and only 400,000 people were receiving anti-retroviral treatment.
~ I spoke about the AIDS pandemic at a Markham Stouffville Hospital Medical Staff dinner. I challenged my colleagues to mark World AIDS Day by giving one day’s pay to an organization that would use the money well in fight against HIV.
~ MSH physicians donated $33,000 to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
~ Give a Day was born!
~ We developed the first version of the Give a Day logo.
~ Dignitas International was added as a second recommended recipient.
~ In a letter to my colleagues that year, I quoted Stephen Lewis who said: “When one part of the world is under siege, it’s up to the privileged part of the world to compassionately intervene. It’s called human decency.”
~ Toronto hosted the International AIDS Conference. At that venue, Bill Clinton said: “The longer I live and the more I travel, the more I realize that intelligence and effort and ability and dreams are evenly distributed across all of humanity in every country across all races, and religions and cultures. What is not evenly distributed are the mechanisms to give life to all those things. The opportunities, the investment, the systematic capacity that establishes a link between a person’s intelligence, ability, effort and dreams, and the picture of life that emerges.”
~ The legal community joined the Give a Day effort – under the leadership of Mike Fekete and Jennifer Keenan.
~ On December 1, that year, I wrote: “I dream of the year, when every Canadian will see World AIDS Day, as a day when they work not for themselves but for the broader human family. On that day, each Canadian will give up their income to reliable agencies that use these resources to combat HIV infection around the globe; to treat people with AIDS; and to care for others who are deeply affected by this wretched infection.”
~ This was a great year for donations. Give a Day raised about $700,000!
~ 33 million people were living with HIV. 1.4 million had access to antiretroviral treatment.
~ In the summer of 2007, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH reported: “For every one person that you put in therapy, six new people get infected. So we’re losing that game, the numbers game.”
~ Canadian Living did a story about Give a Day.
~ At the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Gregg Gonsalves said this: Without continuing sustained focus on AIDS treatment, many millions of the poorest and most marginalized people in the world will die, period. And without breadth, not only will AIDS treatment be incomplete, but we will miss the greatest opportunity in history to build functioning health systems in some of the poorest countries of the world.”
~ Give a Day hosted Hot Talks in Markham with Stephen Lewis, Dr. Jeff Turnbull, Madagascar Slim and Soul Influence.
~ In 2009, in sub-Saharan Africa alone1.5 million people died of AIDS related illnesses.
~ On the www.giveaday.ca blog, Dr. Tim O’Shea wrote: “91% of the 430,000 children born with HIV in 2008 were born in sub-Saharan Africa. The fact that transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child continues to occur at such rates at a time when we know how to reliably manage this risk should be a source of shame for the entire international community.”
~ My opinion piece “If I could write a rap song about HIV” was published in the Toronto Star.
~ Maple Leaf Foods became a Give a Day sponsor.
~ During each day 2011, one thousand children were newly infected with HIV. This could have been prevented.
~ A world-renowned AIDS advocate, Winstone Zulu, died. I wrote about him on the Give a Day blog.
~ Give a Day hosted GLINT – a one-hour online twitter-based not-so trivial contest on the topic of HIV.
~ In the year 2012, 1.6 million people died of AIDS-related causes.
~ By the end of 9.7 million people were receiving anti-retroviral treatment. (Look back to 2004 to see how that number grew!)
~ Give a Day had raised over 3.5 million dollars in contributions to the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Dignitas International.
~ Arlene Dickinson lends her support as a spokesperson for Give a Day.
~ The Stephen Lewis Foundation has supported over 700 initiatives with 300 grassroots organizations in 15 African countries.
~ Through Dignitas International, more than 20,000 patients have been placed on life saving antiretroviral treatment at the Tisungane Clinic.
~ Give a Day continues to grow! Please give generously.
Please note: A version of this article originally appeared on the www.giveaday.ca website.