The second date in the sixteen-day period that mark the campaign against gender violence is World AIDS Day.
In 2000, heads of states around the world promised to stop the epidemic by 2015. Yet, 65 million people around the world are infected with the HIV virus and according to health organizations around the world, this number keeps growing. Last year we heard Stephen Lewis deliver the final of the Massey Lectures, entitled Race Against Time, that deals precisely with the problem of the pandemic in Africa. I urge anybody who hasn’t read the lectures yet, to do so. They were collected and published in a book of the same name. The situation throughout the continent is desperate. A whole generation is being wiped out. In many places, there are only children and their grandparents left. Women are being infected in disproportionate numbers, often by their own husbands. Lewis mentions a visit he made to a village in Africa. After he gave his speech, teaching kids about prevention, one young girl raised her hand. She said the boys at her school were always on her case to have sex but she refused them. Her answer was simple: “I don’t want to die”.
That lecture was one of the few moments I felt proud of Brazil as state. Still back in the late 1980s Brazil made a serious commitment towards prevention and treatment. The prevention campaign is ubiquituous and intensify in periods of “risk” such as carnival. It involves education campaigns, distribution of free condoms to prostitutes, etc. Treatment includes full access to the drug cocktails free of charge. Obviously this means the program is super expensive and Brazil has played a leading role in pressuring American drug companies in lowering their prices for HIV drugs. Yet, it has worked. While the numbers keep growing across the world, they are starting to recede in Brazil.
For more about World AIDS Day and what you can do to help the world keep its promise, take a look at these:
Give a Day of your work to help – a doctor in Ontari, Canada started a movement that initially involved 50 doctors but which now involves hospitals across the country. They each donate their income on World AIDS Day as doctors to an AIDS foundation. The idea is now to spread the concept over to different professions.
World AIDS Day site
UNAIDS – Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS