World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, an annual event to raise awareness about the AIDS pandemic.

Millions of people are living with AIDS, and HIV continues to spread. Check out these sobering statistics from the World Health Organization, including AIDS deaths last year:

AIDS statistics from WHO

Socioeconomic factors play a huge role in who is exposed to HIV/AIDS and who has negative health risks. While no cure exists, treatment can make it possible to live with the disease. Yet the drugs are expensive and inaccessible to many people. Only 28% of Americans infected with HIV are being treated effectively, according to the CDC. The numbers are much worse in parts of the world where more people have less access to health care – 76% of deaths due to AIDS were in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007.

The good news is we’re seeing progress in research into stopping the disease. Exciting new research shows proper treatment for HIV is 96% effective in reducing transmission. Yet we are seeing funding cuts both to research and treatment and prevention programs worldwide. Cuts that put millions of peoples lives at risk.

Funding is a major issue in the US, too. African Americans and trans folks have higher rates of infection, with factors like income obviously playing a huge role. But there’s never enough money, so the pie gets divided up along identity lines. You may notice the focus of increasingly less visible HIV/AIDS campaigns shifting between different groups, usually African American boys and men or women and girls, depending on who the latest statistics say is most at risk. Which really serves as a distraction from the fact that there’s not enough funding being directed towards this issue to actually end the pandemic and make sure everyone living with the disease receives the treatment they need.

UNAIDS has suggestions for ways to take action on World AIDS Day. It’s also important for us to continue acting by pressuring government and international agencies to take serious, large scale action to end this pandemic.

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  1. Posted December 1, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    While the search for treatment funds for those unable to afford medications is important, I think we should all focus more on prevention as the primary objective. Strong prevention practices and education stand to actually eradicate AIDS someday. Low instance of infection also means that we could provide better quality help for those already infected. Let’s focus on prevention. What do you think?

    • Posted December 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Prevention comes in many forms. Providing medication to people living with HIV can be (and is) considered prevention–it lowers their viral load and helps reduce their risk of transmitting HIV. Actually, I think the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report just released an article about treatment being prevention.

      While I do not disagree with the need for education and strong prevention practices, they cannot exist alone. New strategies are being employed to reach people on a wider scale, including making HIV testing a routine part of health screening. But the regions that need testing and treatment the most are besieged with so many problems beyond simple “prevention” strategies alone–stigma, fear, fatalism, inadequate access to services, religious intolerance, and under-funding. Prevention can’t work in environments where communities deny that a problem exists, where victims are blamed for their immoral behavior, where those infected are shunned, and where services do not exist to care for those with the virus (just read this article that was shared not too long ago to see what I mean).

  2. Posted December 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    These statistics are too depressing. We created a list of Safe Sex Commandments that would better resonate with black youth of today.

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