The 27th annual World AIDS Day was globally celebrated on December 1, 2014. The first World AIDS Day held in 1998 was the first-ever global health day. Since 2011, the universal theme for World AIDS Day has been “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero deaths from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination.” This year, the U.S. theme for World AIDS day was: “Focus, Partner, and Achieve: An AIDS-Free Generation.”
Currently, 35 million people in the world live with HIV/AIDS. Since 1981, 39 million deaths have been attributed to this disease.
The fight against AIDS has been a global, collective effort. It is outlined in Millennium Development Goal 6 and the United Nations has declared fighting AIDS a top priority.
While significant strides have been made against combating HIV/AIDS in recent years, the greatest concern of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is that there are still too many new cases of HIV infections each year.
One of the primary ways that the world is working together against HIV/AIDS is through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was established in 2012 and islargely guided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Currently, the CDC facilitates the growth and development of national HIV/AIDS programs in nearly 60 developing countries, particularly throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Through PEPFAR funding, the CDC leads programs aimed at tackling HIV/AIDS and eradicating the disease completely.
In November 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated:
“The goal of an AIDS-free generation may be ambitious, but it is possible with the knowledge and interventions we have now. And that is something we’ve never been able to say without qualification before. Imagine what the world would look like when we succeed.”
PEPFAR outlines the framework to tackle all the areas that would stop the spread of HIV. The four main points include:
- A road map for saving lives: Those who have already have HIV/AIDS, particularly mothers and children, are given priority and treatment to eradicate the presence and prevent the detrimental effects of HIV to ultimately reduce the mortality rates caused by the disease.
- A road map for smart investments: The CDC conducts research to target the cause of the virus and ultimately protect the most vulnerable. Not only does it track down the virus, but it also figures out how to partner with the part of the population that is most vulnerable.
- A road map for shared responsibility: This reiterates the importance of working collectively across both the public sector and private sector alike, as well as multinational and bilateral organizations.
- A road map for driving results with science: PEPFAR will support those with solid and compelling scientific research. While funding research, PEPLAR will fund new and promising technologies that will prevent or effectively treat HIV/AIDS.
Despite the large number of new cases of HIV each year, significant progress has been achieved. Even the mortality rates due to HIV/AIDS have substantially dropped by 35 percent since 2005, which was considered the worst period for AIDS. In 2005, the number of deaths caused by AIDS had risen to 2.4 million people. By 2013, that number dropped to 1.5 million deaths.
One thing to emphasize is the importance of working collectively against this disease and finding new methods of treatment and prevention. The disease is not limited to third-world countries. Rather, no country has been exempt from finding new cases of HIV infections. While the highest instances of new HIV infections are found in sub-Saharan Africa, the first world has its share as well. For instance, there are nearly 100,000 people in the U.K. who live with HIV and in the U.S. alone there are currently 1.2 million people.
As the world joins together once a year to remember all those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, support those currently battling HIV/AIDS and work together to bring sustainable solutions to eradicate the disease, one can celebrate the great strides already made and hope to see the virus destroyed forever.
– Christina Cho