We applaud the Government of Canada's continued efforts to push women's and children's health to the forefront of the global agenda, as the high-level Summit on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health opens in Toronto this week. In far too many many parts of the world, women still struggle to access the health services they need, at an often deadly price.
Many of the social and economic barriers that stand in the way of effective HIV prevention, treatment, support and care for people living with HIV are the same barriers that impede access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health programs and services. In societies where cultural and gender norms tightly restrict the sexual and reproductive lives and choices of women and men, the risk for both unintended pregnancy and HIV infection is greatest.
World AIDS Day is Saturday. How will you remember and commemorate? Last year alone, 1.7 million people worldwide died as a result of AIDS-related causes. Their deaths must not be in vain. In their memory let us take a more proactive stance in observing this special day this year. End HIV stigma now is a good message. But how? Complacency about AIDS is a major problem and education is still our only vaccine. But sometimes, somewhat surprisingly, even the educated need educating.
Sitane Diamini is no stranger to pain and hopelessness. Her album of family memories includes a scene at the local medical clinic in her home country of Swaziland, on the day when both she and her husband tested positive for HIV. Then she became pregnant. For someone reading this story 20 years ago, what happened next might have seemed nothing short of miraculous.
Recent advances in our understanding of HIV transmission, treatment, prevention and testing are changing the landscape of our response to HIV and generating a significant amount of optimism. The buzz at the International AIDS Conference this past July in Washington D.C. was that we may now be able to achieve an "AIDS-free generation."