Personally, I have not had my own life affected by HIV/AIDS nor has anyone close to me. But it doesn't matter. AIDS effects everyone, be it our government policies or health care or how we conduct our sex lives. We all must take precautions and be aware that this awful disease does not discriminate who it infects. Unfortunately, HIV positive people do face discrimination. Only 20 or so years ago during the peak of the Gay and Lesbian community's AIDS epidemic there was talk by our legislators of segregating and/or quarantining all homosexuals, even requiring them to wear badges or patches identifying themselves as infected. Today du jour discrimination against HIV/AIDS is illegal, but fear and ignorance still allow de facto bias to continue.
So for this year's World AIDS Day, and for all your days to come, if a HIV positive person chooses to disclose to you their status please give them the courtesy and respect they deserve. Even well-meaning people can panic if someone discloses, especially a potential sexual partner. If a sexual partner is positive and tells you up front, you have the right to say no if you are uncomfortable. But know that many HIV negative people are in long-term and serious relationships with HIV positive people. Whatever you choose remember it takes a lot of courage to disclose this information. Besides, there are many people who do know they are positive and choose not to reveal their status, potentially putting other people at risk.
And as always, if you are sexually active use protection and get regular tests for STIs. AIDS isn't the death sentence it once was, but there are people around the world and here at home who do not have access to effective treatments. There are wonderful AIDS-related charities such as AmFAR, World Vision, and UNICEF always looking for donations! If you have recently discovered you are HIV positive you can go to Project Inform for information, advocacy and support at www.projinf.org.