by Ali Golfetto

December 1st is more than just the day to start the countdown to winter break, the day to panic because exams are around the corner and textbooks are still tightly wrapped in cellophane, or the day when you can put up Christmas decorations without looking too insane. December 1st also marks World AIDS Day – a day to commemorate and show support for the 33.4 million people currently living with HIV around the world. As hip, young Canadian women, we don’t fall into the most at-risk groups for being infected with HIV, so, too often, it falls off our radar as a serious issue. Every single day, 7,397 people are newly infected with HIV when infection is preventable, and about 5,479 people die from AIDS-related illnesses when effective treatment exists. Two-thirds of the people living with HIV around the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa, so health care systems in these areas are totally overwhelmed with the burden of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. To read more about HIV/AIDS globally, read the most recent report from UNAIDS:

HIV/AIDS is a huge issue facing Canadians as well. North America has about 1.4 million people who are HIV-positive, and, in Ontario, 1/3 of the people who are HIV-positive don’t have any idea.

What can you do?

1) Get tested – even if you think you are very low-risk, it never hurts to find out for sure. Check out the Hassle-Free Women’s Clinic in Toronto: 66 Gerrard St. E, 2nd Floor. 416-922-0566. Testing is free and anonymous and you don’t need a health card.

2) Educate yourself about HIV/AIDS globally by reading the UNAIDS report.

3) Support HIV/AIDS organizations working both locally and globally by volunteering, following them on social networking sites, and making donations. The holiday season is a great time to ask for donations to be made in your name instead of getting gifts. If you’re looking for a great international HIV/AIDS organization, check out Dignitas International at