World AIDS Day
celebrated on December 1st
, 2008, is an annual reminder of the two-decade long fight with one of the biggest challenges to healthcare, HIV-AIDS. The day also marks the 20th
anniversary of World AIDS Day, which gives an opportunity for public and private partners to join hands in stepping up prevention, treatment and care
in countries with high incidence of HIV-AIDS.
The progress made so far with respect to achieving universal care and support for those suffering HIV has remained patchy, and so calls for a more focussed approach to prevention, treatment, care and support.
The key objective of World AIDS day 2008 campaign is to provide universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Such a goal would be unimaginable without effective leadership at all levels. Recognising the importance of leadership, the theme for World AIDS Day 2008, 'Lead - Empower - Deliver' calls out to all leaders to take it up as a priority issue and spearhead the cause of AIDS.
• It is disheartening to note that despite years of awareness programmes about AIDS, there are about one in three people who go undiagnosed. From the statistics of UNAIDS, an estimated 33.3 million people are living with HIV. Among these 2.5 million are children.
• More than half of infected people are in the prime of their youth. Statistics also point out that they do not survive beyond 10 years of diagnosis.
• In India, there are about 2.5 million HIV+ individuals of which 1.7 lakhs are in the state of TamilNadu.
• Mortality due to AIDS stands at a staggering 2.1 million people worldwide. Among the dead, 330,000 are children.
• According to a voluntary service group, women and girls in the third world are disproportionately victimized by HIV/AIDS because they face consistent discrimination.
What the Campaign Needs to Address
The numbers of countries that offer protection for people with HIV has grown manifold, yet nearly one third of countries are still inadequately protected and worse, are plagued by stigma and discrimination. HIV services need to be improved for those on drugs, sex workers, women and adolescents adopting a priority-based approach.
The impact of effective leadership has resulted in many countries formulating national policies on AIDS. However, many of these policies could not be carried forward in certain countries due to lack of funds. Political leaders will need to make this a national priority and iron out impediments for effective implementation of AIDS policies.
Unfortunately, for every 3 steps we take forward, we also go 6 steps backward, there is still a huge gap in the ratio of numbers of patients who get access to HIV treatment versus the huge numbers of new infections. Rate of infection is reckoned to be 2.7 times faster than the numbers having access to treatment.
Certainly, there has been a marked improvement in the numbers having access to HIV services - treatment, care, prevention and support. Though, awareness measures have speeded up worldwide, yet the statistic in middle-income countries leave little to be desired- only 31% of people actually receive treatment for HIV.
Effective Leadership - Need of the Hour
To achieve the objectives of World AIDS day, leadership is required at all levels. Effective leadership will translate into better financial resources and improved co-ordination, which will be a leap forward for meeting the Anti-AIDS objectives.
Individuals must ascertain their rights and stand up strongly against stigma and discrimination. It is in the hands of the young to adopt leadership roles and take the initiatives forward to Stop AIDS by enabling worldwide reach of prevention of the disease while ensuring treatment, care and support for HIV/AIDS patients.