Today is World AIDS Day, when we remember those we’ve lost to the pandemic, celebrate the victories we’ve won, and look ahead to an AIDS-free future.
But what can you do today to make a change against a pandemic that’s killed millions and baffled scientists for decades? A lot more than you think.
Below, we count down seven very real things you can do to help the fight against HIV/AIDS
7. Download music
Queer indie pop star Bright Light Bright Light is dedicating the proceeds from his new single, “Everything I Ever Wanted,” to Sir Elton John AIDS Foundation. “I really wanted to do something to help raise money for World AIDS Day,” he told Attitude. “I know many people who have been affected by the disease and making pop music, I don’t get to do an awful lot that feels like it helps a wider community.”
Download “Everything I Ever Wanted” on on iTunes, and a dollar from the sale will go to the foundation’s direct care and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Plus, it’s a really great song.
6. Take a selfie
Last week, Jack Mackenroth launched the#WeAreAllClean campaign on social media to help eradicate the stigma attached to people with HIV.
After years of seeing many HIV-negative men refering to themselves as “clean”—suggesting those who are positive are somehow “dirty”—Mackenroth decided enough was enough. “As someone who has been living with HIV for 25 years, this is very personal to me,” he said in a statement.
Participants are asked to take a (non-explicit) photo or Vine of themselves in the shower and share it using #WeAreAllClean. You can then make a donation to Housing Works, challenge three friends to participate and, on World AIDS Day, change your social profile pictures to your shower selfies.
5. Try to donate blood
The FDA still hasn’t changed its policy banning gay men from donating blood for life. Even new recommendations from the Department Health and Human Services suggest a year of celibacy before gay men can be allowed to give blood.
These regulations are outdated, counterproductive and unverifiable—which is why so many are working to get them struck down. (The American Medical Association has called the ban lifetime ban “discriminatory and not based on sound science.”)
The National Gay Blood Drive is a nationwide fundraiser/protest held around the country every July, when gay men go to blood drives, attempt to donate and then offer a straight friend or family member who can up a pint or two their place.
Though we’re more than six months away from the next NGBD, you can still try to donate any time. Your attempt will be recorded by the FDA, and help illustrate how many gay men would donate blood if they could.
4. Play Angry Birds
Apple has ramped up its efforts for World AIDS Day in 2014, with 100% of proceeds from the iTunes store’s Apps for (RED) section going to the (RED) Foundation’s Global Fund to Fight AIDS, from now through December 7. The tech giant will also donate a portion of brick-and-mortar store receipts from Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the cause.
“Apple isn’t just in the fight to end AIDS. They are setting a new bar for business, giving $75 million and counting to the Global Fund as part of their partnership with (RED),” said Bono, who helped co-found the effort. “I couldn’t be prouder to work with them.” Some apps participating in Apple’s Apps for (RED) campaign include:
3. Contribute a panel to the AIDS Memorial Quilt
LGBT activist Cleve Jones helped launch the AIDS Memorial Quilt, honoring those we lost to the virus, nearly 30 years ago—at a time when many hospitals refused to treat AIDS patients, and funeral homes would routinely refuse to accept the bodies of those who died from the virus.
With new pieces added all the time, the Quilt now is comprised of 48,000 individual panels that commemorate more than 93,000 names, and would stretch across 1.3 million square feet if laid out end to end.
You don’t have to know someone personally affected by HIV/AIDS to contribute a square—or even know how to sew. (Directions on submitting are available here.)
While its too big to be displayed in whole, segments of the quilt will be on view around the country today (You can find locations here.) Digital galleries have also been created to exhibit portions of the quilt in cyberspace.
2. Learn about PrEP
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, treatments like Truvada are proving to be a potent tool in the fight against the spread of HIV. They offer HIV-negative people an added level of protection against infection—one that doesn’t rely on the behavior of a sex partner.
But only you can decide if PrEP is right for you. Get the facts and latest research recommendations from the CDC before speaking to your healthcare provider.
1. Get tested
Knowledge is power: The largest growing segment of HIV is coming from people who don’t know they’re positive.
AIDS.gov offers a nationwide database of testing centers, as well as locations that can help with housing discrimination, substance abuse, counseling and more. Find a site near you on their HIV Testing and Care Services Locator by simply typing in your ZIP code.
* You can also text your zip code to KNOWIT (566948), and receive a text back with a confidential testing site near you.
* Or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and ask for free testing sites in your area.
* Worried about privacy and convenience? There are now safe and accurate HIV home-testing kits from companies like OraQuick and Home Access available at most major pharmacies.