‘Beginning of the End of AIDS’…remembering World AIDS Day

It’s World AIDS Day!  Today it is important that we remember those who have been affected by AIDS, but it is equally imperative that we use this day as an opportunity to look towards the future.  In the 30 years since the disease emerged, more than 30 million people have died and twice as many have been infected with HIV.  Despite these startling numbers, progress is being made.  While around 50,000 people in the sub-Saharan region had access to treatment in 2002, there are now 4.7 million people on life-saving AIDS medicine in the region and 6.6 million people worldwide.

Progress has been made. If we want to end this global epidemic, however, that progress must continue.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal today, former President George W. Bush  stated that “the promise of progress against the disease has never been more vivid—or more fragile.”  The US has dedicated tremendous funds and brainpower to fighting this disease, but the battle is not won yet and it is important that we keep focused on our goal.  President Bush made that point clear in his message:  “At the same time that a renewed commitment on AIDS is needed, there is a risk it could be weakened. America and Europe face fiscal constraints. During moments of economic hardship, there is a temptation for Americans to disengage from the world. But isolationism is always shortsighted and too often leads to greater hardship and despair in places that need our help…In the U.S., foreign humanitarian assistance, including AIDS relief, represents less than 1% of our federal budget. It is not the cause of our fiscal problems. Reducing our commitment would only succeed in increasing the sum of suffering.”

There have been many commemorative  events today — one of which brought together three presidents of the United States.  President Obama, along with former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as Alicia Keys, Bono, and other notable AIDS activists, joined in a discussion this afternoon about the future of AIDS eradication.  In his address, Obama emphasized that we are at the “beginning of the end of AIDS”.  Obama announced $50 million in new money for domestic treatment plans as well as insisted on the importance of international support: “it’s important to keep in mind that this is a global fight, one that America must continue to lead.” (If you would like to view the entire presentation, click here)

Education is a crucial tool in this battle.  Commit yourself to the cause and EDUCATE yourself on this issue – so that you can more effectively share that information with others and serve as a powerful agent for change.

As Obama stated earlier today, “We just have to keep at it, steady, persistent, today, tomorrow, and every day until we get to zero…that has to be our promise to each other — because we have come so far; we have saved so many lives. We might as well finish the fight.”