Dec. 1 is the silver anniversary of World AIDS Day, but another color defines the historic moment.
Red ribbons supporting people living with HIV/AIDS will fly proudly Saturday during the 25th annual event, founded by the World Health Organization in an effort to end one of the deadliest pandemics in history. Though awareness is increasing about this leading infectious killer, the facts continue to tell a devastating story:
- 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV, compared with 8 million in 1990;
- more than half of young HIV-infected Americans are not aware of their status;
- nearly three times as many black teens and young adults, and twice as many Latino youth say HIV/AIDS is an issue that concerns them personally as compared with whites the same age; and
- according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual number of new HIV infections in the U.S. is slowly rising.
Fortunately, good news is not far off, starting with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR — a blueprint for “creating an AIDS-free generation.” The plan, launched in 2003 by former U.S. President George W. Bush, now supports nearly 5.1 million people on antiretroviral treatment — “a 200 percent increase since 2008,” Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton said Thursday while discussing the plan.
“We can reach a point where virtually no children are born with the virus, and as these children become teenagers and adults, they are at a far lower risk of becoming infected than they are today. And if they do acquire HIV, they have access to treatment that helps prevent them from not only from developing AIDS, but from passing the virus on to others,” Clinton said.
A host of community, national and global events is scheduled for Saturday to bring attention to HIV/AIDS initiatives. Notably, MTV will air “I’m Positive,” a 60-minute documentary produced by talk show host Dr. Drew Pinsky — as part of the network’s partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation — that details the trials and triumphs of three HIV-positive youths.
This year’s World AIDS Day theme is “Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths,” the designated theme from 2011-2015. Last year, President Barack Obama discussed the first-ever U.S. HIV/AIDS strategy and steps being taken to eliminate the disease nationwide — including a $15 million grant to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program that supports HIV medical clinics and an additional $35 million subsidy to state AIDS-drug assistance programs.
In a proclamation released Thursday, Obama discussed transcendent achievements in 2012, including antiretroviral treatment of more than 700,000 HIV-positive pregnant women.
“Here in the United States we are implementing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy and concentrating our efforts in communities where HIV rates are highest, including among gay men, Latinos and African Americans,” Obama stated in the proclamation.
APHA and its HIV/AIDS Section celebrate the 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day and the tireless efforts of so many to support the global fight. Visit AIDS.gov and the National AIDS Trust to learn more about how you can make a difference.