World AIDS Day Promotes Message of Accountability, Urges International Community To Fulfill Commitments To HIV/AIDS Fight
AIDS advocates, health care workers and people worldwide on Thursday are marking World AIDS Day by focusing on the message "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise," which urges governments and the international community to remain committed to fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, AFP/China Daily reports (AFP/China Daily, 12/1). The estimated total number of HIV-positive people worldwide has reached its highest level ever, increasing from 39.4 million in 2004 to 40.3 million currently, but some countries that have invested heavily in prevention programs -- including Kenya, Zimbabwe and some Caribbean countries -- have lowered their HIV prevalence rates, according to a report released last week by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization. The report estimates that nearly five million new HIV cases occurred this year and about 3.1 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2005, bringing the total number of deaths from the disease to more than 25 million since 1981. Of those who died this year, 500,000 were children and 2.4 million lived in sub-Saharan Africa. Access to HIV treatment has improved over the last two years, with more than one million people in middle- and low-income countries receiving antiretroviral treatment, leading to an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 avoided deaths in 2005, according to the report (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/21).
UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said, "We can either continue to accept that global efforts will fail to keep pace with ever-increasing numbers of HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, including more and more women and girls. Or we can recognize the exceptional global threat posed by AIDS and embrace an equally exceptional response." He added, "The commitment to resource and deliver effective prevention, treatment and care services for all who need them is one we must all keep. There are no excuses" (UNAIDS release, 11/30). "It is a time to admit that if we are to reach the Millennium Development Goal of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of AIDS by 2015, then we must do far, far more, " U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement. He added, "That mission concerns everyone of us. ... On this World AIDS Day, I ask all of you to join me in that mission" (U.N. release, 12/1). Former President Clinton, who advocates for better HIV/AIDS prevention and care through the Clinton Foundation, said, "There is ample evidence that our collective efforts are working, and this year, hundreds of thousands of lives were spared thanks to the expansion of care and treatment efforts," adding, "Despite these successes, the battle is far from won, and we must redouble our prevention efforts, continue to expand treatment to children and those living in rural areas and work to ensure that medicines remain affordable" (Clinton Foundation release, 12/1).
U.S. Promotes Message of 'Action'
HIV/AIDS advocates and officials in the U.S. are promoting the World AIDS Day message "Action Makes a Difference" to address the importance of prevention, screening, treatment and counseling programs for high-risk groups and people living with HIV/AIDS. More than one million HIV-positive people are estimated to live in the U.S., but about one-quarter of those people do not know they are HIV-positive (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 11/25). "World AIDS Day provides each of us with an opportunity, collectively, to intensify the commitment to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic," NIH Director Elias Zerhouni said (NIH release, 11/30). Speaking about the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "Americans should celebrate all the successes that we and our partners are achieving in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. But today, we must also remind ourselves how much hard work lies ahead," adding, "[I]f we sustain our commitment -- if we match our compassion with action -- we will one day bring hope to all who are living in the shadow of HIV/AIDS" (State Department release, 11/30).
Other World AIDS Day Coverage
Many newspapers worldwide included coverage of World AIDS Day events and issues. Some of those articles are listed below.
- "Volunteers stalk HIV ignorance on a trek around India," Christian Science Monitor (Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, 12/1).
- "Asia observes World AIDS Day with marches, education campaigns," AP/Houston Chronicle (Hussain, AP/Houston Chronicle, 12/1).
- "In South Africa, AIDS' Toll Also Felt in Schools," Los Angeles Times (Dixon, Los Angeles Times, 12/1).
- "AIDS ravages S. African business," Washington Times (Washington Times, 12/1).
Ask the White House: U.S. Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the State Department's Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, is scheduled to answer questions Thursday at 4 p.m. ET in an "Ask the White House" online chat. The complete transcript will be available online following the discussion.
Additional resources on HIV/AIDS, including several new and updated resources, are available online from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.