Sunday, November 29, 2009

A day of awareness and advocacy

1 December 2009: World AIDS Day

On Tuesday UNAIDS—a joint UN program which seeks to fight HIV/AIDS through the partnership of 10 different non-governmental programs—will remember those affected by HIV/AIDS; raise awareness about the effects of HIV/AIDS; advocate for increased HIV/AIDS research, treatment, and prevention; and celebrate their accomplishments in the battle against HIV/AIDS. According to the WHO, the purpose of World AIDS Day is to “draw[s] together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic.” After reading several personal accounts, posted on the World AIDS Campaign site, regarding the effects of HIV/AIDS, I could not help but post a response to my October 22 post relating to the continuance of HIV vaccine research.

On November 24 a news release was published by UNAIDS stating a 17% reduction in new HIV infections since 2001. As stated in the press release, HIV prevention programmes are making a difference!

· An estimated 33.4 million people are currently living with HIV worldwide. There were approximately 2.7million people newly infected in 2008. Additionally, an estimated 2million people died of an AIDS related illness in 2008

· A higher amount of HIV-infected people are currently living than ever before, due to the increased life-expectancies of HIV-infected individuals as a result of the benefits of antiretroviral therapy.

· The number of AIDS related deaths has declined by over 10% in the past 5 years, as treatments become more available worldwide

· HIV prevention programs are not commonly made available to married couples, individuals over the age of 25, or widowers and divorcees, in many countries. However, the highest population of HIV-infected individuals falls under one or more of those categories, in most countries.

This just goes to show how important and beneficial HIV/AIDS research is. In relation to the last bullet point, it is critical that HIV/AIDS research continues and that more HIV prevention programs are either established or expanded. In the words of Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO, “We cannot let this momentum wane. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and save many more lives."

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