In Conversation with Honorary Chair for the 2014 World AIDS Day Luncheon – Travis Torrence
As of 2013, we’ve lost nearly 39 million people to AIDS. It is estimated that approximately 35 million people are currently living with HIV and AIDS around the world. And, in the United States, 1 in every 5 individuals who is positive is unaware of their status. Although I’m negative, I’ve noticed a sense of complacency surrounding the virus among people in my age group. Because we were too young to remember the fear that hit the world in the 1980s when AIDS first popped on the scene, and because people infected with the virus are living longer than ever, people no longer see AIDS as a problem. But, it’s a virus that does not discriminate. It affects people of various sexual orientations, races, age groups, and socio-economic statuses. That’s why we all need to play a part in ending this epidemic once and for all.
How can other Houstonians get involved in Getting To Zero which is the United Nation’s motto?
It’s really going to take a concerted effort to get to zero new HIV infections in Houston and to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. In addition to making monetary donations to AIDS Foundation Houston, we have plenty of opportunities for individuals and groups to volunteer with our organization year-round. From AIDS Walk 2014 to Dining Out for Life to education and outreach efforts, there’s something for everyone to roll up their sleeves and help out with in eliminating HIV/AIDS.
Our next major event will be AIDS Walk Houston. It will be at Sam Houston Park on Sunday, March 8, 2015. AIDS Walk Houston 2015 is a community-wide event that attracts thousands of Houstonians each year. The walk is produced by AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc. and benefits local AIDS Service Organizations striving to make an impact in the fight against AIDS while providing vital social services to Houstonians living with HIV/AIDS.
How can we all help erase stigmas about AIDS here in our community?
Stigma against those affected by HIV is fueled by continuing irrational fears of infection, moral judgment, and ignorance about the harm of stigma. In addition to engagement with religious and community leaders and celebrities, we need to effectively use media, including advertising campaigns, entertainment designed to educate as well as to amuse, and integration of non-stigmatizing messages into TV and radio shows. More importantly, however, there should also be inclusion of non-discrimination as part of institutional and workplace policies in employment and educational settings and community interaction and focus group discussions involving people living with HIV and members of populations vulnerable to HIV infection.
This year’s lunch was once again a success with the hard work of many volunteers and chairs. This year was exceptional with the introduction of the Shelby Hodge Vision Award. “I love this organization… I chaired the luncheon in 2011 and I received my award for community activist from Mayor Annise Parker for raising awareness and money for this organization, having an Edward Sanchez Day is cool but having three is pretty spectacular,” shares Edward Sanchez.