By: Joanna Hoffman, Special Projects Manager at Women Deliver
Today’s commemoration of World AIDS Day marks 30 years since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began, claiming nearly 30 million deaths around the world in the decades since. Progress towards averting deaths, through global partnerships and committed donors, has been heartening: close to 50% of those eligible for antiretroviral therapy now have access to lifesaving treatment, and new HIV infections have decreased by 21% since 1997. Overall, treatment has saved the lives of nearly 2.5 million people since 1995, bringing the world closer than ever before to UNAIDS’ goal of “getting to zero”- zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
Despite these steps forward, much work remains to be done. Still, half of the 33 million people around the world living with HIV/AIDS do not have access to treatment. Girls and women are particularly vulnerable. In sub-Saharan Africa, 60% of those living with HIV are female. Each year, HIV claims the lives of over 61,000 mothers. The need for comprehensive, youth-friendly sexuality education, integrated health services, contraceptive supplies and treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission is greater than ever before.
With these aims in mind, this year global leaders adopted the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying our Efforts to Eliminate HIV/AIDS and the Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. The declaration sets out targets for 2015, including the provision of antiretroviral treatment to 15 million people, the elimination of all mother-to-child transmissions of HIV and a commitment to an additional $6 billion in funding. Despite this, the current financial outlook is dismal. Donor funding fell by 10% between 2009 and 2010, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s recently announced that funds have been cut for new programs.
As progress is celebrated today, it is critical that the primary focus is on action. Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation and other NGOs have posted banners on their homepages calling for support to the Global Fund, and pressing for an emergency donor meeting to reinforce existing commitments made in the past decade. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is tackling pervasive discrimination through its Criminalize Hate Not HIV campaign, which recently launched an online tool to help those living with HIV, as well as campaigners and activists around the world, find out more about laws and policies which may affect them directly.
Today, please join us in spreading awareness, calling for resources and putting the world on notice that we cannot afford even one more AIDS-related death. Together, we can “get to zero”.
To read the 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report, click here.
A video message from UNAIDS of its Executive Director Michel Sidibé:
A Video message from National AIDS Trust of UK Prime Minister David Cameron: