December 1, 2010

International Community Marks World AIDS Day 2010

Wednesday marked a global day of celebration and sadness, hope and reflection, as nations around the world paused to mark international World AIDS Day 2010.

According to the World AIDS Campaign website, "World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1 each year around the world. It has become one of the most recognized international health days and a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services."

The event, which was first held on 1989, was originally championed by UNAIDS, the United Nation's program dedicated to raising awareness for and leading the battle against the immunodeficiency disease. According to a CNN.com article, the UN claims that the number of new infections worldwide has decreased by nearly 20 percent over the past decade, but the battle is far from over.

CNN reports that the estimated number of children living with HIV or AIDS has increased by a total of 46 percent in 11 Asian nations (Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Liste) between 2001 and 2009. Furthermore, they note that approximately 1.8 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses last year.

"On this World AIDS Day we can be proud"¦ less people are becoming infected with HIV and less people are dying from AIDS," Michel Sidib©, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a statement on Wednesday. "For the first time, we have broken the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic and reached the first part of the Millennium Development Goal for HIV."

"We are prevailing"¦with political commitment, leadership from all sectors including leaders of faith"¦with science, with evidence, with human rights, and passion," he added. "[But] our successes have not come without sacrifice. Today we mourn friends and family--some 30 million people who have lost their lives to AIDS. An estimated 10 million people are waiting for treatment. We must remember that punitive laws and stigma still hurt too many people around the world."

Sidib©'s comments come as the UNAIDS High Level Commission on HIV Prevention released a new Declaration in honor of World AIDS Day 2010, which calls on world leaders to help "accelerate the decline in new HIV infections and spark a prevention revolution." The Declaration was released by HIV Prevention Committee Co-Chairs Professor Françoise Barr©-Sinoussi and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

"HIV prevention activism is indispensible to overcome the epidemic," Archbishop Tutu said in a statement posted to the UNAIDS website. "Communities must receive the support and encouragement they need to mobilize against the epidemic with courage and fearless commitment."

"Our hard-won gains are fragile--so our commitment to the AIDS response must remain strong. AIDS is a proven investment and must be a shared responsibility today and tomorrow," added Sidib©. "With your commitment and that of UNAIDS and the UN family, we are changing the course of the AIDS epidemic"¦ Nothing gives me more hope than knowing that an AIDS free generation is possible in our lifetime."


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