Today, on the 24th anniversary of World AIDS Day, people from all over the world come together in solidarity to show support for those who have been touched by AIDS and to recognize the shared commitment to reduce the burden of the disease for future generations.
HIV is one of the most feared and life-threatening diseases of our time. Currently, 1.2 million people in the U.S. and 60 million worldwide are infected with HIV. While as a nation and world we made great strides over the past 30 years in curbing the tide of the epidemic through education, awareness, research and improved treatment options, HIV/AIDS remains one of the greatest public health concerns today.
The impact is largely centered on a number of factors driving this troubling trend, including lack of access to screening, treatment and awareness of risk factors — all of which can be exacerbated by prevailing health disparities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 100 people in the U.S. living with HIV only 80 are even aware of their infection and only 62 of those have affordable access to treatment.
Researchers and advocates alike remain hopeful by recent progress made in medical research and treatment.
“HIV is still one of the most easily preventable infections that we have, and the tools are readily available and so cost-effective,” said Michael Reece, PhD, MPH, immediate past-chair of the APHA HIV/AIDS Section and director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University in an interview with Public Health Newswire earlier this year.
In a Wall Street Journal editorial published today, former President George W. Bush hailed the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis created in 2002 and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR, created in 2003 that provides effective AIDS treatment to millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Today, at least 450,000 children have been born HIV-negative due to PEPFAR’s diagnosis and treatment programs that prevent mother-to-child transmission.
“This great enterprise of hope is now culminating in a prospect that once seemed impossible. Recent game-changing scientific studies have confirmed that certain interventions — including male circumcision and earlier antiretroviral treatment — can dramatically reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS. Applied in the highest risk groups and regions, these methods could reduce the level of new infections. AIDS would finally be in retreat,” Bush wrote.
Today, for the 24th anniversary of World AIDS Day we celebrate the tremendous progress we’ve made in research, prevention and treatment around HIV/AIDS but also recognize the challenges and work ahead to keep it under control.