The positive progress of medicine

On this year’s World AIDS Day, I would like to reflect on the pandemic that has taken the lives of over 36 million people worldwide. The lives of the most vulnerable members of our society, no less.

When it started almost 40 years ago, it was viewed as taboo, and rather than rushing to the aid of victims and sufferers through investment in medical research and emergency aid, the first response was denial, lies, and inaction. At that time, I knew we had to change the perception of this illness if we wanted to improve the Physical, Emotional, and Social Wellbeing of the ones suffering. I knew we had to do better.

I moved to the United States for my studies in the 1980s, as the AIDS pandemic was starting to take its toll on American society. I heard of people becoming infected, and after a while, passing away. I heard of people who, despite trying to live their lives as normal, were excluded from their communities and marginalized because of the illness.

The case that particularly stuck with me at the time was the case of Ryan White, who became the poster child for the AIDS pandemic in 1985 when he was barred from a school in Indiana. A hemophiliac, he became infected with HIV through a contaminated factor VIII blood treatment. He was only 13 years old at the time. The school rallied against his readmission due to concerns of airborne spread. The misinformation hurt him and many others like him. Despite the challenges that he had to face, he remained calm and graceful. In his own words:

AIDS can destroy a family if you let it, but luckily for my sister and me, Mom taught us to keep going. Don’t give up, be proud of who you are, and never feel sorry for yourself. We had great faith that with patience, understanding, and education, that my family and I could be helpful in changing their minds and attitudes around.

Ryan passed away in 1990, but his legacy continues to live on.

Fast forward to 2021, we now have antiretroviral drugs, PrEP, early detection, and above all — an actual cure might be in sight. The US plans to reduce new HIV infections by 90% by 2030. Seeing this fills me with positivity: something that we have hoped for for so long is finally happening.

But we shouldn’t have needed to wait this long, and we need to learn from the mistakes of the past not to repeat them in the future. It saddens me to see that, forty years after AIDS first broke out, another pandemic seems to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in society once again: those who couldn’t work from home, or lost their jobs and income source, or didn’t have parents at home to support them during online learning. Though not taboo like AIDS were at the start, there is still a stigma surrounding COVID-19: the World Health Organization notes that

The level of stigma associated with COVID-19 is based on three main factors: 1) it is a disease that’s new and for which there are still many unknowns; 2) we are often afraid of the unknown; and 3) it is easy to associate that fear with others.

The parallels with the AIDS pandemic are indisputable.

On this World AIDS Day, I hope that Ryan White’s struggle continues to inspire us to do better as humans; to tackle misinformation wherever we see it and alter misconceptions about the diseases that affect the most marginalized members of our societies. However far the medicine progresses, misinformation is what stays with us if we do nothing to challenge it.

As a narrative, Wholistic Wellbeing seeks to touch everyone positively regardless of their place within society or personal circumstances: everyone has an equal right to it. Let’s work together to make this vision a reality by facilitating access to healthcare, especially in times of crisis, and pushing for greater education and literacy in matters of health and wellbeing.

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Bringing #wellbeing to the world Founder of @roundglassUS Founder @edifecs #wholisticwellbeing #corporatewellbeing #wellness #leadership

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Sunny (Gurpreet) Singh

Sunny (Gurpreet) Singh

Bringing #wellbeing to the world Founder of @roundglassUS Founder @edifecs #wholisticwellbeing #corporatewellbeing #wellness #leadership

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