The Climate Crusader is considering our interconnectedness on World AIDS Day.
Today - December 1 - is World AIDS Day. This day has been set aside since 1988 to raise awareness and call for action in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS. The good news is that massive strides have been made in the past 26 years. An HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. Also, HIV transmission rates have decreased and stabilized, even as more people are living with the infection.
The bad news is that HIV/AIDS continue to disproportionately impact marginalized groups worldwide. Here in Canada, where I live, aboriginal people comprise four percent of the population, but make up twelve percent of new HIV infections. In the US the CDC says that African Americans and Latinos are at greater risk from the disease. Globally, the vast majority of people living with HIV/AIDS are in low and middle income countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
What does this have to do with green living? The same people who are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, are also disproportionately impacted by environmental issues. A report from the World Health Organization says:
Socioeconomic status is an important determinant of the likelihood that individuals and populations are exposed to environmental and other risk factors for health.In fact, the United Nations Development Programme is advocating that the impact of large-scale projects on HIV rates be included in the environmental assessment process.
Okay, but what does this have to do with us? I don't know what your life is like, but I'm a suburban mom of two. I am not on the front lines of the fight against HIV/AIDS, and no one is consulting me about how to assess large-scale development projects. What can I really do?
For me, the key point to remember is simple. In fact, it's the kind of thing I say to my kindergartner: we are all connected. The choices we make about what to buy, what organizations to support, and so on, can impact the lives of people we'll never meet halfway around the world. This is just as true whether we're considering how being exposed to pesticides impacts the health of the farmers who grow our food, or whether we're thinking about how the wages that workers receive impact their ability to access health care. When we inform ourselves, make conscious decisions and vote with our dollars, we can help create a better world for everyone.
When we fight for a healthier environment and a more just world, we're also helping to fight the diseases that are associated with socioeconomic marginalization, including HIV/AIDS. The trends show that we can make a difference. Let's not give up the fight.