“Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” World AIDS Day 2007

AidsribbinsvgLiving in the United States today, it might seem like the ravages of HIV infection and AIDS are largely contained. After all, it’s treatable, behaviorally preventable, and I don’t know anyone dying from it…

…yet today still 70% of (HIV) infected people don’t have access to life saving therapies. Many still face stigma, economic deprivation and rejection because of their infection. Many still don’t have access to basic information or simple interventions that will reduce risk. This is not the time for complacency nor apathy. It is the time for compassionate leadership that recognises that the voiceless are often those who suffer most- who can they turn to if their leaders do not listen and heed their cries.

–Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M Tutu

The truth is every day 6,000 people die from AIDS. Of the 33 million people infected with HIV, more than 25 million of them are in Africa. 2.3 million are children, not including the number of uninfected children under five years of age who’ve lost a parent to AIDS and now face a lower survival rate due to poverty and abandonment issues.

Maybe you’ve been tested for HIV, but try this AIDS test, and in the very first question you’ll learn that AIDS claims as many lives as American fatalities in the Vietnam War – every single week.

Here’s some perspective – to date AIDS has killed the equivalent of the populations of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin combined. Think of the entire population of your child’s school. The population of your home town. The nearest city. Every single person dead. Now think of five cities. Twenty cities. A state. Three states. Three states. 25 million people.

Now remember that 33 million people are currently infected and nearly two-thirds of these are not receiving treatment.

How many more statefuls of people need to die before we, as individuals, do something to help? Maybe you’re already helping. But if you’re not – why are you waiting?

Donate here, or here, or here. Raise Money. Do eBay. Volunteer. Buy stuff. Walk. Bug a politician.

It may be tempting to view AIDS as less of a threat than it once was. While technically true, it’s still killing at an alarming, and in many areas, growing rate.

2007 marks the first World AIDS Day able to celebrate real progress against the disease. The global total had been holding at about 40 million in the late nineties and since then the rate of new infections has also decreased. Antiretroviral drugs have been largely successful in treating HIV and efforts to bring medicines to developing nations is beginning to pay off.

Nevertheless, despite these advances, experts warn that, though we’ve won some battles, we’re still losing the war. According to an AFP article

“Despite substantial progress against AIDS worldwide, we are still losing ground,” says James Shelton of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in a commentary appearing today in The Lancet, a London medical journal.

Despite progress in the drug rollout, treatment is still only available to about 10 per cent of those in need, notes Shelton.

In developing countries, “the number of new infections continues to dwarf the numbers who start antiretroviral therapy in developing countries”, he says. [Em. mine]

More info – ways to help:

AVERT - AIDS charity
Stop AIDS in Children

Global Health Reporting – Comprehensive list of AIDS organizations.

Avert – US AIDS organizations, by state.

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