Another step on the path to advocacy is protection. In the HIV/AIDS movement, it is important to walk the talk. Using protection such as condoms or dental dams during oral, vaginal or anal sex greatly reduces your chance of contracting HIV.
These methods are highly effective in preventing HIV when used correctly and on a regular basis. However, the only 100 percent effective way to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS is abstinence. If you decide not to abstain, use protection.
Once you have educated yourself, and hopefully walk the talk, it is important to spread the word. Whenever and however you can, talk to people about HIV/AIDS prevention methods and testing options. Myth-busting some common myths about HIV/AIDS is also a key strategy in educating others.
Sometimes the most convenient way to educate others is to talk to your friends or the people with whom you are the closest. If they are confused about something, use the new knowledge you have gained to fill in some gaps for them.
If they have questions you can not answer, direct them to resources such as AVERT.org, which provide factual information about HIV/AIDS.
Many who wish to get involved in the movement join or start an advocacy group or coalition. Often people prefer to do advocacy with others, as it gives a chance to pool resources and learn from the differing expertise of group members.
And even if you are beginning, you bring expertise based on personal experiences. Do not be intimidated about joining a group.
Do a search online and you will find a plethora of reputable organizations who do HIV/AIDS work around the world. HIVtest.org has a comprehensive resource section on their website with over 60 organizations you can support or join. Many groups provide training or mentorship in advocacy work, giving you a chance to increase your expertise.
Also, you can raise money for a specific organization or community impacted by HIV/AIDS. Take a look around your community and be creative and bold about taking a stand and fighting to raise awareness.
One of the most important ways you can get involved in HIV/AIDS advocacy is by voting in local and federal
Electing officials who support the efforts and philosophy of those in the fight against HIV/AIDS makes obtaining adequate funding and protecting important programs possible.
Find out who is running for office, and see where they stand on HIV/AIDS prevention. If you are not already registered, take a few minutes to register to vote. A website to register is rockthevote.org, which has information about the voting process and how to get involved with the organization. Voting empowers you to help influence policy, which is the foundation of affecting change.
In the fight against HIV/AIDS, we will only be as successful as the collective efforts of everyone involved. Our battle right now is so important that everyone must be a part of the solution.
Educate yourself. Educate others. Speak your mind. Get involved. You are needed. Consider your help desi(red).
Julian E. Wooten is a first year pharmacy student from Fountain. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org_