It's an odd thing to commemorate a day like World AIDS Day, during which time more than 1,000 babies will be born with HIV.
World Vision's 2011 World AIDS Day global theme is “Getting to Zero -- Zero New Infections; Zero Discrimination; and Zero AIDS-related Deaths.” It’s an ambitious goal. But we at World Vision see this as a hopeful rallying cry, motivating us to remain true to our commitment to fight the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
This year also marks 10 years since World Vision began its Hope Initiative, our groundbreaking effort to engage U.S. donors and churches around the tragic effects of the virus, especially in sub-Saharan Africa -- the area hit hardest. (This region, which has only 12 percent of the world's population, is home to 68 percent of all people living with HIV.) The Hope Initiative led World Vision to devise new child-focused programs that continue to help AIDS-affected communities deal with the loss of a generation of men and women in the prime of life.
Fortunately, the epidemic appears to have turned a corner. The 2011 report by UNAIDS (pdf) shows the number of newly infected children is down to 390,000 from its peak of 560,000 in 2002, and 22 African nations have seen their HIV incidence decline by more than 25 percent.
It is estimated that up to 50 percent of new HIV infections among children are caused by stigma, because women refuse to take a test or fail to collect their results. World Vision’s work to fight discrimination and educate young people and their communities is helping change things for the better. And we’ve engaged thousands of churches as partners in this war against ignorance and intolerance.
Anti-retroviral medicine is a lifeline to HIV-infected pregnant moms. While only 46 percent of those eligible for anti-retroviral treatment are receiving it in low- and middle-income countries, more than 301,000 new infections among children have been averted by providing it to pregnant women living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
Alarmingly, funding for this medicine is on thin ice in the United States. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), signed into law in 2003 by President Bush, is in jeopardy as the federal budget battle wages. We’re at work, advocating that calmer minds and kinder hearts will prevail in Congress so that funding will not be slashed, but rather increased to help our global neighbors save more children.
We may still face an uphill battle against HIV and AIDS, but we at World Vision believe in a God who can work wonders as we put our trust and hope in Him.
More facts on HIV and AIDS*:
- Some 34 million people are now living with HIV and AIDS; 68 percent of HIV and AIDS-affected persons are in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Of those 34 million people, 2.5 million are children. Another 16.6 million children are currently orphaned by AIDS.
- Fifty percent of the number of people living with HIV globally are women.
- In 2010, 1.8 million people died of AIDS-related causes. That's 4,931 per day, 205 per hour, 3 every minute. One life is lost to AIDS every 20 seconds.
- Since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, 30 million lives have been lost to the illness.
- Every day, 1,068 children are infected with HIV.
*All statistics presented in this post are taken from the 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report (pdf).
World Vision joined the ONE Campaign and other organizations on December 1 calling on government leaders to commit to a bold global plan for prevention and treatment to end AIDS. President Barack Obama announced several new Administration commitments to the fight to end HIV and AIDS, including the goal of supplying life-saving antiretroviral treatments to 1.5 million pregnant women over the next two years. Former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Kay Warren and Bono were among participants who highlighted the great successes and strong U.S. leadership through programs like PEPFAR and the Global Fund, but noted the need for governments, the private sector and NGOs to continue to work together. World Vision’s Dr. Kent Hill attended as a representative of NGO partners who were called up on stage at the end of the program.
Join us today in our fight against the global AIDS crisis! Make a one-time gift to help us prevent transmission of HIV between mothers and their children.