What is World AIDS Day? It is a time when we pause to celebrate community, our diversity, and our shared progress in the global fight against HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). It is a time when we stand in solidarity with people who are living with and affected by HIV, and a time when we commemorate those who we have lost in the fight. It is a time when we raise our collective voice even louder to call out, push back, and dispel the stubborn and ever-persistent myths, misperceptions and stigma that create the walls and lay the conditions driving HIV infection rates across Canada and around the world.
World AIDS Day is a time when we stoke global awareness efforts for what remains one of the world's leading public health and development challenges of our time. It is also a time when we reflect on our activities and ask ourselves "what we can be doing better?" to finally win the race and get to zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS related deaths, and zero discrimination.
This year's Global Report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows us that we are making significant headway in gaining control over the epidemic. Rates of new infection are down around the world. In fact, this past year marked one of the lowest number of annual new infections recorded since the mid-to-late 1990s. Similarly, fewer children were diagnosed with HIV with reports showing a 52 per cent drop in new infections since 2001. And, over the past decade, treatment access has increased 40-fold -- meaning not only more lives saved and potential transmissions averted, but that more people are enjoying longer and healthier lives with HIV (UNAIDS, 2013). This is tremendous progress.
However, despite these historic winnings significant hurdles remain. Rates of new infection may have declined globally, but many parts of the world are still experiencing substantial spikes in their epidemics (e.g., Middle East and North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia). Vulnerable population groups including, Indigenous communities, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers, prison inmates, women and transgender communities, still experience considerable health, social and political inequities, confront human rights injustices, and shoulder the brunt of new HIV infections. Advances in science, technology and implementation have helped to transform HIV into a manageable disease but have they come at the price of growing complacency and waning public interest?
This has been an exciting year for global public health and international development. Heads of state, business leaders, community and civil society representatives and members of the broader public have engaged through various forums and platforms in dialogue and discussion reviewing progress made on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They have joined the on-going design of a blueprint for the incoming post-2015 development framework; and, they have mobilized to ensure a robust and fully funded Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- the leading international financing institution for HIV, TB and Malaria programming around the world. Each of these proceedings will inevitably have a direct impact on our ability to respond here at home and abroad. Canada has a vital role to play in each of these processes. Through bold global leadership, continued support and strong investment we will be able to get HIV finally under our control.
In celebration of World AIDS Day 2013, ICAD is pleased to partner with the Huffington Post in our second annual blog series running from December 1-7, 2013. Each day will feature a selection of blogs written by our member and partner organizations. Each day of the week will address a specific, yet broad topic area, and offer different perspectives and insight on what must be done to achieve the UNAIDS campaign of "Getting to Zero". Our daily themes include:
· HIV as a development issue;
· HIV-related co-infections/co-morbidities;
· HIV and gender issues;
· HIV stigma and discrimination, and;
· HIV and key affected populations.
Today is Dec. 1. Today is World AIDS Day. Please join the conversation this week and over the months and years to come. Only together will be able to truly Get To Zero once and for all.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: