the-south-asian.com January 2004
Page 1 of 2
AIDS - a Growing Epidemic
The World Health Organization (WHO) has organized the "3x5" campaign whose goal is to make it possible for 3 millions persons infected by HIV/AIDS to receive the latest treatments by 2005.
"HIV/AIDS has become the biggest threat to human survival in the last 700 years. Important gains made in child health and life expectancy are being threatened by this epidemic, which is destroying many of the efforts and investments of past decades," says PAHO director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago
Text provided by UNAIDS
"This World AIDS Day, the evidence again shows a growing epidemic. In hard-hit regions, AIDS threatens the very fabric of society and life expectancy is plummeting. In those regions where HIV is still relatively new, especially Eastern Europe and much of Asia, the epidemic is expanding fastest of all. Yet amidst the unfolding tragedy of the epidemic, the global response to AIDS is entering an extraordinary and historic new phase of opportunity." UNAIDS Executive Director's message on the occasion of World AIDS Day 2003
HIV and AIDS can touch raw nerves in all our communities. The stigma of HIV and AIDS relates to deep taboos within society. For many the disease has a strong association with prolonged illness, death, sex and drug use -- issues that many of us find difficult to talk about openly. Along with general discomfort about discussing these 'taboo' issues, many communities are also dealing with high levels of ignorance, denial, fear and intolerance about the disease itself. This potent combination can lead to rejection and even aggression against people living with HIV. As a result, people with HIV have been disowned by their families, fired from their jobs, asked to leave their homes. They can face discrimination in receiving medical care. In extreme cases they have even been physically attacked. Stigma and discrimination can lead to depression, lack of self-worth and despair for people living with HIV.
Negative attitudes about HIV can create a climate in which people become more afraid of the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease than of the disease itself. When fear and discrimination prevail, people may choose to ignore the possibility that they may be HIV-positive – even if they know they have taken risks. And people may decide not to take measures to protect themselves in fear that in doing so they could be associating themselves with HIV. All of this helps to create an environment in which the disease can spread more easily. This year's World AIDS Campaign encourages both individuals and institutions to reflect on how they respond to those living with HIV and AIDS. With challenging posters and television images the campaign clearly shows how the most painful symptoms of HIV and AIDS are often the reactions of others. When someone feels safe within their own community, they are more likely to take responsibility for their HIV status. This is why it is so important for all of us to examine our own attitudes. We need to ask ourselves: are we helping to create an environment where people can take responsibility for themselves and others? Or do our attitudes contribute to an environment of shame, fear and denial that prevents people from taking action? Only by confronting stigma and discrimination across the world will the fight against HIV/AIDS be won.
Live and let live. Help us fight fear, shame, ignorance and injustice worldwide.
As part of that day, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) released a report on Understanding and Responding to HIV/AIDS Related Stigma and Discrimination in the Health Sector, which highlights a problem that still exists within the health services of the Americas.
Currently, some 42 million persons live with HIV/AIDS around the world. In the Americas, the total is 2.8 million persons, including 235,000 who became infected with the virus last year. Of this number, 1.4 million are in Latin America, 420,000 in the Caribbean and 940,000 in North America.
The biggest growth (16 percent in relative terms) took place in the Caribbean, following by 10 percent in Latin America and 5 percent in North America.
The Caribbean is the second region in the world with the highest rates of incidence, after Sub-Saharan Africa. The highest levels of incidence are in The Bahamas and Haiti.
In the Caribbean, most of the transmission of the virus comes through heterosexual contacts. However, in the Andean region – as well as in Canada, Mexico and the United States – sex between men accounts for 50 percent of transmissions.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is considered a worldwide public health emergency. According to reports by international organizations, by the year 2050 the population of South Africa – now around 44 million – will decrease to 40.2 million because of HIV/AIDS fatalities.
The direct result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a reduction in the birth rate and of the hope for life. It has been estimated that as many as 91 million infants were not born in Africa because of the AIDS deaths of productive-age adults.
The global campaign that ended in 2003 highlighted stigma and discrimination. Using the slogan "live and let live," the campaign also sought to abolish discrimination and myths that still plague the HIV/AIDS problem.
"HIV/AIDS has become the biggest threat to human survival in the last 700 years. Important gains made in child health and life expectancy in the Americas are being threatened by this epidemic, which is destroying many of the efforts and investments of past decades," says PAHO director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago in the report’s preface.
It is precisely this discrimination that has damaged the advances that have been made in the fight against this epidemic. When it comes to access to anti-retrovirals—the newest drugs to treat HIV/AIDS -- the nations of the Americas have been able to reduce their costs by as much as 90 percent.
To increase access to these medicines, the World Health Organization (WHO) has organized the "3x5" campaign whose goal is to make it possible for 3 millions persons infected by HIV/AIDS to receive the latest treatments by 2005.
|Copyright © 2000 - 2004 [the-south-asian.com]. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.|