World AIDS Day is held each year on December 1st. This is when we remember the millions of people who have died of HIV, and refocus our determination to bring this essentially preventable virus under control.
urrently, around 34m people live with HIV (4.8m in Asia). The burden, as is usual with infectious disease, falls largely on developing and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa. HIV treatment – which doesn’t cure, but prolongs life and reduces infectivity – still reaches only just over 8m people, half of those in need (though this is an improvement; access has improved substantially in the last 2 years, by 63%).
It’s easy to be gloomy, but we should look to the positive side too – the number of new infections in many countries is falling, such as Cambodia (down by 88%), and Malaysia (34%). [quote align=”center” color=”#b64736″]And there is real international momentum for getting to so-called ‘zero’: no new infections; no deaths from AIDS-related illnesses; and no discrimination.[/quote]
For Aung San Suu Kyi, writing as co-signatory of the most recent report from the UN agency coordinating the fight against HIV, UNAIDS, [quote align=”center” color=”#b64736″]“The results we have seen show us that the momentum of our collective political will and follow through can overcome the biggest of obstacles and challenges – even the shortness of time.”[/quote]
Let’s hope that the spirit of these positive and uplifting words carries us forward to an era when HIV is no longer a threat.
By Ian Hodgson