World AIDS Day, December 1, has marked its 25th year with those in power around the world pledging to continue the fight for an AIDS free world.
President Barack Obama announced that the United States is on track to meet their target of 6 million people living with HIV by the end of 2013. The target was announced last year on World Aids Day.
“As we continue this important work with our partners around the world and here at home, let us remember the lives we have lost to AIDS, celebrate the progress we have made, and, together, recommit to ourselves to achieving our shared vision of an AIDS-free generation” says Obama.
A large red ribbon was placed on the north entrance of The White House in honour of those lost and to serve as a reminder that the fight is far from over. “We stand at a tipping point in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and working together, we can realize our historic opportunity to bring that fight to an end,” says Obama.
“On World AIDS Day, in memory of those no longer with us and in solidarity with all who carry on the fight, let us pledge to make that vision a reality.”
In the week leading up to World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a plan to strengthen the fight against AIDS. The plan looks at the need for early treatment of HIV and investments in preventive measures, with the goal of ensuring that the number of new patients on antiretroviral treatments eventually exceeds the number of new HIV infections.
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron says that there are a record number of new infections in the gay community, with 25,000 people in the UK unaware that they are HIV positive. “This means up to 600 people a year could be dying from a preventable, treatable condition” he says.
He spoke of the importance of early detection, saying, “World AIDS Day is a chance to do two things: take action and reflect. First and foremost, it’s got to be a spur to take action, as there are still far too many people who aren’t educated about HIV and AIDS who don’t get tested.
“People need to know that, diagnosed early, the outlook for most people with HIV in the UK today is a good one, thanks to the availability of effective treatment and the excellent care provided by the NHS.”
Many have criticised the British Governments lack preventative campaigning, saying that the focus needs to be on education and prevention.
The Sydney Opera house was lit red to mark World AIDS Day and a fireworks display lit up the night sky. The Australian government says it is committed to reducing the number of people becoming infected or dying of AIDS, and to increase access to testing and treatment.
New South Wales released a plan to cut the number of new infections among gay men by two thirds in three years. Health Minister Jillian Skinner made the announcement. “[This strategy] has ambitious targets – an aspirational target of 60 per cent reduction in transmission in the gay community” says Skinner.
“We know right across the world that you can make tremendous gains by allowing people to be aware of their HIV status earlier and then enabling them to find that and get that treatment much quicker.”
New South Wales’ premier GLBTI health organistation, ACON, has urged all levels of government in Australia to do more to reduce infection rates.
ACON President Mark Orr says “While condoms remain central to the fight against HIV – and the cornerstone of any effective response to HIV transmission – we now have a range of new approaches which, if adopted, can revolutionise the way we practice HIV prevention.”
With effective implementation, and in combination with existing condom-based strategies and other behavioural interventions, these new approaches have the potential to significantly reduce NSW’s and Australia’s HIV notifications and put us within sight of the end of the epidemic.”
“New approaches include making access to testing substantially easier, so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis – where people who choose to not use condoms take HIV medicines before having sex to try to prevent the virus taking root in their bodies – and ensuring as many HIV positive people as possible are on medication to reduce levels of infectiousness.”
The UN’s annual report shows that new infections have fallen by 50 percent in 25 countries, with the number of people accessing life-saving treatment increasing by 60 percent.
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says “On this World AIDS Day, let us commit to build on and amplify the encouraging successes of recent years to consign HIV/AIDS to the pages of history.”
The report also shows that AIDS related deaths have dropped by 25 percent since 2005.
| Sarah Murphy