Lindsey Labrum with Olympic Gold Medalist Greg Louganis.

In response to our piece, “Getting To Zero”, about the UN ILO’s special video project for World AIDS Day 2014, Lindsey Labrum shares her thoughts on tolerance and a memory that has remained with her throughout her life.

The United Nations International Labor Organization (UN ILO) is working to dissipate the stigma around AIDS and the job discrimination many people deal with when testing positive for HIV. The more people that are educated and made to feel less “alone” the more likely they are to get tested early, which will cut down the number of lives lost to the AIDS virus worldwide.

I found the PSAs produced by Nzinga Blake and Bonnie Abaunza to be moving actor portrayals of the real men and women in Jordan, India and Zimbabwe living with the very stigmas the UN ILO is trying to eradicate. Each performance gave an emotional truth to what many AIDS survivors deal with on a daily basis once diagnosed. So many people out there feel too ashamed to get help or don’t even want to know if they are positive because of all the negative repercussions associated with the virus.

When I was fourteen, my father interned at an AIDS clinic in San Francisco, California. One story in particular has journeyed with me through my life. There was a man who had contracted the AIDS virus and then unwittingly passed it to his wife, who was also the mother of their two small children. Both parents lost their lives to the virus and orphaned their kids. They ended up in foster care. It scared me to think how easily you can lose your entire family due to one fatal mistake.

At the time, I remember being so frustrated and thinking, “Why didn’t he get tested? How could he do that do his family?” The truth is, I was the one being naïve. Back then, to even talk about AIDS was taboo. It put you in a place of alienation rather than giving you the support needed to bravely face such an illness. In too many parts of the world, this taboo still exists.

UN ILO World AIDS Day 2014 PSA: Actress Kavi Ladnier portrays Seema, a mother in India who doesn’t discover her status until her son gets terribly ill.

Had there been more information out there, more support groups, more awareness, more stories of similar situations, those children would still have their parents.

Four time Olympian Greg Louganis came out to support the message of zero discrimination in the hopes of bringing the number of AIDS-related deaths down to zero. His own diagnosis makes him a brave advocator for many people living with the virus today.

World AIDS Day shouldn’t be limited to just one day a year. AIDS awareness isn’t just about the people living with AIDS. It’s about all of us coming together and working as a unit on this planet to help create a more educated, supportive environment so that the next generation can thrive. This movement has to have constant vigilance. People must realize and understand that only through compassion and understanding will a difference be made. Discrimination and fear must be replaced by education and humanity. Making a difference worldwide is at all of our fingertips. – Lindsey LABRUM