A Step Toward Zero Discrimination

Blood:Water held its annual Red Tie Gala last week in Nashville. In conjunction with World AIDS Day on December 1, this event recognizes the leaders and unsung heroes who are leading the charge in the HIV/AIDS fight.

We had the privilege this year of honoring Ambassador Deborah Birx, coordinator of the U.S. Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS, along with Dr. Thomas Coates, director of the UCLA Center for World Health. Both of these individuals have worked tirelessly to impact the lives of millions across the globe living with HIV/AIDS.

birx coates-01

This year’s theme was stigma. The international AIDS community is not just focused on the important tenets of getting to zero new infections and zero AIDS-related deaths, but also to zero discrimination, which addresses shame and stigma. Millions of people who are infected with HIV/AIDS across Africa are afraid to come out of the shadows to receive care, fearing they will become outcasts of their communities.

The best way to help bring people out of stigma and into care is through community-based support groups. At the gala, we highlighted an individual who is truly giving his life on the frontlines to serve those in his community. We welcomed our friend, Leon, to the U.S. for the first time. Leon works at the Tumaini Medical Center in Isiolo, Kenya. This clinic is funded by Blood:Water, and focuses on the testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS patients.

rtg leon-01

Leon is the picture of true community engagement, humility, compassion, and desire to see the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS changed. When Blood:Water talks about Africans becoming the heroes of their community, there is no better example than Leon.

By working with community members like Leon, we believe that we will see the end of the HIV/AIDS crisis in our lifetime. We believe that we can see an end to the stigma that keeps so many in hiding and out of the care they so desperately need.

Thank you for joining us in this fight. We hope you will join us next year at the Red Tie Gala.