World AIDS Day 2011

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by Sven Larsen

Twenty-three years ago,World AIDS Day dedicated the first of December to focusing attention on the fight against the disease: raising awareness, fighting to lower infection rates and boost survival rates, and honor those who have been part of the fight.

On a personal level, you can more aboutWorld AIDS Day and how you can help by becoming an educator, an advocate, a champion or simply an informed person.

On a professional level, check out whatGregg Fischer told our Sarah McLellen in July aboutLBI Healths multi-year “Fight HIV Your Way photo contest for Bristol-Myers Squibb. As he said, the idea is to connect and honor people with HIV – the end goal being to help them overcome stigma, to have the courage to tell their stories and ensure that they get the best care they can.

Every year the theme of the day is different, though the past several years have had the same overarching theme, with a different angle on it each year. The last few years have been dedicated to “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise, but this year begins a five-year cycle focused on “Getting to Zero.

Think back: when the first World AIDS Day was taking place, fewer than eight million people around the world were HIV positive. AZT was only a year old. Children with AIDS were told theyd have to stay inside aglass enclosure in order to go to school. The government, for the first and only time, mailed a disease-educationpamphlet to every citizen. Understanding was low, fear was high; perceptions and medicine were both colored by fright and ignorance.

Today, some33 million people are HIV+, and30 million people have died.

The numbers arent all negative. The quantity of new infections is finallyshrinking, and a person infected with HIV who receives prompt antiretroviral treatment may have a life expectancy of another32 years.

But of those 33 million people, only5.2 million of them are receiving treatment anywhere like that – a statistic that explains the “Getting to Zero theme of 2011s World AIDS Day: the goal of achieving zero AIDS-related deaths. Asthe organizers point out, however, this is not merely a case of getting access to one drug or (if one existed) vaccine. Rather, its a myriad of goals, related not only to treatment but also to the facets of prevention that come many years before an actual infection:Improving access to clean water. Education (particularly of women). Safety. Employment.

How can we “celebrate World AIDS Day today?

I plan to do it by asking myself – and asking you – these two questions:

  • What can you do in the developing world to improve those facets of peoples life?
  • What can you do in the developed world to raise awareness of these needs and help to focus resources against them?

Please leave your comments below.

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