World AIDS Day is being observed on December 1st. Established in 1988, World AIDS Day is an opportunity to remember those who have been lost to the disease. It is also an occasion for the world to assess current efforts to help those infected with H-I-V, the virus that causes AIDS, and to recommit to the goal of preventing the further spread of the virus.
A new report released by the United Nations notes that, worldwide, "The number of people living with H-I-V continues to rise past forty million, its highest level ever. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region hardest hit by AIDS. More than twenty-five million people there are H-I-V positive." Peter Piot is U.N.-AIDS executive director:
"The fastest growth is in eastern Europe and central Asia, in the countries of the former Soviet Union, where the number of people living with H-I-V has increased twenty-fold in less than ten years."
The report notes, however, that in recent years a growing number of nations, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, and some Caribbean countries, show a decline in H-I-V infection rates. U.N.AIDS says that the reduction is largely due to behavioral changes, including the “A-B-C” behaviors: Abstinence, Being faithful, and correct and consistent use of condoms. While these nations continue to face a major challenge, this is a hopeful sign.
Also growing rapidly are the number of people living with H-I-V/AIDS who have access to life-saving medication. The U.S. is playing the leading role in expanding access to treatment in developing nations, and expanding prevention programs that include the A-B-C messages. These results are being achieved under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In 2003, President George W. Bush announced a fifteen billion dollar commitment to fight global H-I-V/AIDS. The program targets one-hundred-twenty-three countries around the world, with a special focus on fifteen severely affected countries that together account for about fifty percent of infections worldwide. President Bush has pledged that the U.S. "will continue to lead the world in providing the resources to defeat the plague of H-I-V-AIDS":
“Today America is working with local authorities and organizations in the largest initiative in history to combat a specific disease. Across Africa, we're helping local health officials expand AIDS testing facilities, train and support doctors and nurses and counselors, and upgrade clinics and hospitals."
President Bush says the U.S. and its partners in host nations are “working to bring new hope to those suffering with H-I-V/AIDS and contribute to a healthier future for people around the world."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.