World AIDS Day 2011: Progress is Reason to Celebrate

December 1, 2011

On World AIDS Day, we reflect on the incredible progress we have made fighting this disease and recommit ourselves to eradicating it in our lifetime.

Today marks the 23rd annual World AIDS Day, but it is not a day to focus exclusively on the severity of the pandemic, nor is it a day to feel helpless when we think of the 33.3 million adults and children infected with HIV. It is not a day to become discouraged and believe that this disease is undefeatable when we think of the 1.8 million deaths that occurred in 2009 alone or the 370,000 children out of the 2.6 million people that become newly infected with HIV every year. No, today we do not think only of these things. We must instead celebrate that these numbers are noticeably lower than they have been in recent years (in 2004, 2.1 million people died, and in 2008, 430,000 children became infected). We must celebrate the progress that has been made in combating this disease. We must celebrate that incredible advancements have been made in developing antiretroviral medications, that 6.6 million individuals are currently benefiting from this treatment, and that an HIV-positive person using these medications is 96% less likely to spread infection. This progress does not signal victory, however. There is more work that needs to be done. For example, 15 million more infected individuals need access to treatment, which alone does little to curb the rate of infection without a comprehensive approach involving education and prevention. But the ambitious goal of eradicating HIV/AIDS from the planet is more realistic than ever, and that is cause to celebrate--and recommit ourselves to achieving this goal. To continue making great strides, people like you, as well as non-profit organizations and governments worldwide, must all work toward this end. UNAIDS has developed a strategy to reverse the pandemic by the year 2015 by eliminating mother-to-child transmission, expanding access to treatment, and reducing new infections. It is critical that Congress keep the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global AIDS Fund at the level committed under the law so that such goals can be reached. Let us recognize this day, the 23rd World AIDS Day, as a milestone in a journey toward an attainable destination. Let us use this progress as motivation to continue to fight. For more information on global HIV/AIDS and what you can do to combat the disease, click here. Photo courtesy of AIDS.gov, an official government site managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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