December 1 marks World AIDS Day 2006, a time to focus on the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This year’s theme is accountability, in continuation of a multi-year campaign appropriately titled: “Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise.”
With approximately 14,000 people infected every day, HIV/AIDS is one of the worst epidemics in human history. Approximately 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV. Nearly 95% of people infected live in developing countries, two-thirds of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite these staggering figures, only a quarter of those suffering from HIV/AIDS have access to anti-HIV drugs and treatment.
In response to this crisis and as a part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the United States and seven other of the world’s most powerful countries met last year at the 2005 G-8 Gleneagles Summit. Together, they pledged to provide universal access to anti-HIV drugs by 2010.
Providing universal access to anti-HIV drugs and treatment has been at the heart of the debate regarding treatment across the globe. For many low- and middle-income countries, providing universal access to treatment is unaffordable. Many of their health sectors lack the necessary infrastructure, human capital, and financial resources to adequately respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Hospitals and clinics are overwhelmed, often with a high doctor-patient ratio. Health workers are without the proper vaccinations and antibiotics readily available in the developed world to treat curable illnesses and diseases such as dysentery, dehydration or pneumonia.
Over the last year, the push to provide universal access has met with some success. Thanks to the leadership at the G-8 Summit, roughly 1.6 million people now have access to antiretroviral drugs and anti-HIV programs worldwide. While this is a good start, we are still far short of the goal to provide at total of 10 million people universal access by 2010.
In order for universal access to be achieved by 2010, the world’s industrialized nations – including the U.S. — must be strongly urged to make good on their pledges. In order to do that, awareness of the HIV/AIDS crisis must continue to be raised. The greater the knowledge and understanding of this tragic disease, the greater the resources dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS will be. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives are at stake.
With that in mind, this Friday, please consider picking up a red ribbon to show your support for ending HIV/AIDS and exploring the World AIDS Day website at www.worldaidsday.org. Provided is information on how you can make a difference within your own sphere of influence to help bring an end to the HIV/AIDS crisis.