December 1st, 2011
07:13 AM ET
Every year World AIDS Day is held on December 1 as an opportunity for countries and organizations around the globe to come together in their fight against the infectious disease. The Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS estimates that 30.8 million people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2009.
In the United States, many people struggle with prevention, education and treatment. These iReporters shared their personal connection to HIV/AIDS with CNN.com.
Ben, 21, of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Ben contracted AIDS from his partner of a year who hadn't told Ben that he had the disease. “I was shocked, a little scared,” he said. “[But] I had already done a lot of research so I knew what it was about.” He has been volunteering with HIV/AIDS awareness organizations for two years and is currently in a supportive relationship.
Suzanne Taylor is the creator of "The Road We Know," documentary that focuses on the lives of a group of college students’ relationships with HIV/AIDS in Botswana, Africa. It took two months to film the documentary, which shows the problems and solutions that occur within the country, such as free drugs and the modernization of the African culture. Taylor hopes the movie inspires others to have conversations and get involved in their communities.
Ken Barton, 42, of Bowling Green, Kentucky
Ken Barton was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 22. "It's amazing to me because I've been HIV positive for 20 years without any kind of [medication]," he said. "That certainly wasn't the case when I got diagnosed. They pretty much said you're going to die and that was that." Five years after he was diagnosed, he started to plan a future and now celebrates his birthday as well as his diagnosis annually.
Kurt Weston of Huntington Beach, California
Kurt Weston contracted HIV in 1980 and developed full-blown AIDS in 1991. He then got diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which left visible lesions on his body before becoming legally blind in 1996. He went on to do visually-impaired photography and produced a body of work called Blind Vision, which he said, “represents some of the emotional and psychological weight of what I'm dealing with."
Omekongo Dibinga, 35, of Washington
Omekongo Dibinga’s family is from Congo. He has witnessed the effects of AIDS first in childhood, when a close family friend died in his 20s from the disease. One moment that was a “huge wake-up call” for many of Dibinga’s friends, he says, was the death of rapper Eazy E at the hands of the AIDS virus. It was then they realized that AIDS was not a disease that only affected the gay community. Dibinga wants more people to have access to medication. “This is not a conquered disease,” he said. “What affects one of us, affects all of us.”
Have you been affected by AIDS? To share your story, please visit our assignment on iReport.
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