“The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is Universal Access and Human Rights. For me, that means doing everything we can to support countries to reach their universal access goals for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support – all the while protecting and promoting human rights.”
— UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, 2009 World AIDS Day message
Established by the World Health Organization in 1988, World AIDS Day serves to focus global attention on the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Observance of this day provides an opportunity for governments, national AIDS programs, churches, community organizations and individuals to demonstrate the importance of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
According to UNAIDS statistics, an estimated 33.4 million people are living with HIV. Among these, 2.5 million are children. Almost 5,500 people die every day due to AIDS. AIDS caused 2 million deaths in 2007. An estimated 32 million people have died from AIDS since the beginning of the pandemic.
The good news is that data recently released by UNAIDS and the WHO indicates that prevention programs are making a difference. According to the 2009 UNAIDS epidemic update, new HIV infections have been reduced by 17% over the past eight years. UNAIDS says that anti-retroviral therapy has benefited in preventing new infections, especially among children. This has been possible only due to improved access to treatment among HIV-positive mothers, which has helped prevent transmission of the virus from mother to child.
HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. The notion that HIV/AIDS is limited to the gay community is ignorant and dangerous. Approximately 95 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS live in developing countries, with Sub-Saharan Africa the hardest-hit region. But other regions face severe or rapidly growing epidemics in specific countries or areas. Parts of Asia and Latin America are now experiencing severe epidemics at the national or local level. Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the regions with the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world.
And at the end of 2007, the CDC estimated that 468,578 people were living with AIDS in America, around 20,000 more than 2006. That includes an estimated 3,792 children aged under 13 years old.
World AIDS Day serves to remind everyone that action makes a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Ignorance and prejudice are fueling the spread of this preventable disease.
World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV and AIDS. This year, it’s up to you, me and us to stop the spread of HIV and end the prejudice. This is why it is important that all sexually active adults ought to be tested for HIV/AIDS. And why we are demanding accountability from our leaders, that they keep their promises to make AIDS awareness, prevention, and affordable treatment a high priority.