Yesterday marked the 25th annual World AIDS Day, an opportunity for people around the world to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“We remember the friends and loved ones we have lost, stand with the estimated 35 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and renew our commitment to preventing the spread of this virus at home and abroad,” said President Barack Obama in a statement. “If we channel our energy and compassion into science-based results, an AIDS-free generation is within our reach.”
As a result of increased availability of HIV testing, counseling and treatment, new HIV infections around the world dropped 33 percent between 2001 and 2012, and AIDS-related deaths have dropped 30 percent since 2005. Current treatment can reduce infectiousness by 96 percent, and great progress has been made to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, with “more than 850,000 new childhood infections averted between 2005 and 2012 in low- and middle-income countries,” according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
But there are still those 35 million people living with HIV, and more than half of them are women. It is the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, where 69 percent of all people with HIV live, women comprise more than half of the epidemic. Women ages 15-24 are as much as eight times more likely than men to be HIV positive.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged an end to discrimination and violence against women, which can increase the risk of HIV infection and death from AIDS, and a focus on increasing access to treatment for pregnant women and children. “To create conditions for an AIDS-free generation, we must … step up efforts to stop new HIV infections among children and ensure access to treatment for all mothers living with HIV,” he said.