World AIDS Day

“We dedicate ourselves to a great purpose: We will turn the tide against HIV/AIDS—once and for all.” U.S. president George W. Bush declared this during the week of World AIDS Day 2007. Bush spoke at Calvary United Methodist Church, a small Maryland church that supports a group home and school for children orphaned by the disease in Namibia. During his speech Bush urged the U.S. Congress to approve $30 billion for the fight against AIDS worldwide. This funding would add to the billions already committed to prevention and treatment of AIDS. Bush was one of the many world leaders who spoke out about efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in honor of World AIDS Day. The purpose of World AIDS Day, an annual event held on December 1, is to raise awareness about the epidemic and what people can do to fight it. The first World AIDS Day was held in 1988. Since then, increasing numbers of organizations and individuals have participated in World AIDS Day because the disease affects more people each year. HIV/AIDS has killed more than 25 million people worldwide since 1981. In 2007 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that HIV/AIDS cases in the United States were rising by fifty to sixty thousand new infections per year. During the same year, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization estimated that 33.2 million people, 1 in every 200, were living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Daily, 5,700 people around the world die of AIDS. Despite these figures, studies indicate that people have become complacent about HIV/AIDS. Many think that HIV/AIDS is a curable disease. Although antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can greatly extend an HIV-positive person’s life, they cannot cure the disease. Many people think that people can easily get treatment for HIV. However, only 20 percent of those in need of ARV drugs in poor countries have access to them. Still others do not understand that anyone who has sex—no matter his or her age, race, gender, or sexual orientation—is at risk for the disease. World AIDS Day events aim to teach people about the facts of HIV/AIDS, what they can do to help people currently infected with HIV, and how they can help prevent HIV from spreading. One such event was held in 2007 at the First Presbyterian Church in Norfolk, Virginia. Pastor James Wood focused his sermon on personalizing the HIV crisis by associating names with the millions of people afflicted with HIV. Wood and his family spent six months in Kenya working with the Nazareth Hospital, which provides ongoing care for thirty-two hundred HIV-positive patients. During his sermon Wood showed pictures of some of the HIVpositive children who are patients and told their stories. “I want to make HIV’s impact personal and raise awareness,” Wood states. “I want people here not to think of [the HIV-positive patients at the Nazareth Hospital] as ‘those people,’ but as ‘these people’ who are part of our family.” Wood’s viewpoint is that if people focus on helping individuals, rather than getting overwhelmed by numbers, they can help stem the tide of HIV/AIDS. Leanne K. Currie-McGhee, AIDS, 2008 pp. 8-10

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