Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How to Help on World AIDS Day

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

2010 has marked significant progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS. According to UNAIDS, the number of new infections of HIV has fallen by 19% since 1999, the year generally considered to be the apex of the epidemic. Access to antiretroviral therapy has increased--from 28% to 36% (that's under the new WHO Guidelines, for you public health nerds out there) from 2008 to 2009. The percentage of pregnant women living with HIV receiving antiretoviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission has increased from 45% to 53% over that period (both figures from the WHO). We've heard exciting news about microbicides and other potential medical breakthroughs. Perhaps most significantly, the Pope and the Vatican appear to have taken a small step towards promotion of condom use (skeptical comments redacted--let's celebrate this).

But there's so much more to do, especially in PMTCT, which is key to an HIV-free generation. Discrimination and stigma are still incredibly high, and that's across countries at different levels of development--from South Africa to the US. There are still 1.4 million HIV-positive pregnant women every year (WHO) that need to be supported, cared for, and educated to prevent transmitting the virus to their babies. And the funding environment just keeps getting bleaker and bleaker (as if the Global Fund replenishment failure or the Obama administration's pre-election funding proposals weren't discouraging enough).

It's a time in the HIV/AIDS fight to both celebrate our accomplishments and to do a whole lot better.

You can make a difference on World AIDS Day. Here are a few ways:

Test. Know your status!
Learn. Check here for everything you need to know about HIV/AIDS. Or learn a bit about PMTCT at the m2m website.
Remember. Light a candle today and reflect on those who have been lost due to AIDS-related illnesses.
Support. Donate to or volunteer for an HIV/AIDS-related charity.
Listen. Seek out stories from those living with HIV. Please take a moment to watch this short clip:

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