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World AIDS Day – 2021

jstevenson | Journeys through Grief

HIV/AIDS has been an ongoing epidemic for decades. The disease, with origins in the 1920s, blew up in a devastating fashion in the 1980s. Since then, it has surrounded the globe and is called by some a pandemic and by others a global epidemic.[1] Over 36,000,000 people have died from AIDS or AIDS-related causes.

In 1988 The World Health Organization identified December 1st as World AIDS Day. Later the United Nations took up the responsibility to actively work to contain the spread of the disease and to educate nations on the impact HIV/AIDS has on families and communities. And the work is succeeding as rates of infections and deaths have declined dramatically since 2010.

We mark and honor World AIDS day today to acknowledge those persons who died and those who live with the grief. Acknowledging our grief is the beginning of a journey through it. And when the grief is unacknowledged by others, it makes that journey more difficult filling it with potholes, turbulence, and long stretches of loneliness.

In the act of acknowledging a loss, we begin to wrestle with the changes and the developments that the loss brings. Affirming the loss begins to give it a shape. This provides the opportunity to understand the breadth and depth of the loss. When the community affirms the loss, alienation and estrangement can be dispelled; the extent to which everyone suffers is corroborated and the healing necessary begins to take hold. The community grieves and a new understanding is born.

That is what a Red Ribbon signifies. It is the symbol of World AIDS Day and bears a lot of meaning. It is a badge of courage. It is a badge of witness for love and relationship. And it is a badge of memory. Today when you see someone wearing a red ribbon acknowledge them. Invite them to share their connection, who they are remembering, and what was special about that person. Together as a community we grieve and open a space for something new among us.

[1] Accessed November 30, 2021.