World AIDS Day which falls on December 1st, 2011, is a perfect time to boost awareness, increase funding, combat stigma, improve education and kick-start prevention strategies with special focus on nations with high incidence of HIV-AIDS.
This year the theme of World AIDS Day 2011 is intense as it takes on the scourge with renewed vigor to bring it to naught with zero tolerance to its incidence. The theme rightly is "Getting to Zero," which essentially means Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths.
Out of the 15 million people living with HIV and needing life-long treatment, only one third are receiving it. It seems a bit like a racing game where the numbers of new infections always outnumber the account of people beginning treatment for the condition, leaving us with a whole lot to catch up.
• According to latest statistics from UNAIDS, 33.3 million people are battling HIV worldwide, of which 2.5 million are children.
• Majority of HIV victims belong to lower and middle-income countries.
• 50% of victims are youth; statistics show that most do not live beyond 10 years following diagnosis.
• 2.5 million HIV+ individuals reside in India and Tamilnadu is home to about 1.7 lakh victims.
• Despite the awareness about protection before sex, 60% female sex workers in China do not use condoms with clients.
• Education about HIV-AIDS is imperative as nearly one in three people escape diagnosis of the condition.
Vision for World AIDS Day 2011-2015
• 50 % reduction in sexual transmission of HIV among youth, homosexuals, and sex workers
• To completely eliminate vertical transmission of HIV and reduce AIDS-related maternal deaths by 50%.
• Prevention of HIV infections among drug users
• To step up access to antiretroviral therapy for those living with HIV
• 50% reduction in TB related deaths among people living with HIV
• Access to essential care and support for people living with HIV and households affected by HIV
• Better focus on HIV-specific needs of women and girls
The strategies will adopt a three pronged approach. First, is to achieve zero new infections which is possible with effective preventive strategies. Awareness and education, HIV counseling and testing will form the basis of HIV prevention measures. It is also important to improve access of essential commodities such as condoms and sterile injecting equipments.
Discrimination and stigma about the disease is a barrier to approaching medical assistance. Often these two factors discourage people from getting tested, or even taking antiretroviral drugs.
The words of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, are inspirational in our fight against AIDS. He said, "Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is a main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it, or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is a chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world. We can fight stigma. Enlightened laws and policies are key. But it begins with openness, the courage to speak out. Schools should teach respect and understanding. Religious leaders should preach tolerance. The media should condemn prejudice and use its influence to advance social change, from securing legal protections to ensuring access to health care."
On World AIDS Day, let us join hands to fight against stigma and discrimination surrounding AIDS. Let us contribute our mite to increase awareness about prevention among the general public, and step up treatment, care and support for HIV/AIDS patients.