Today marks the 23rd annual World AIDS Day, an event implemented by UNAIDS to raise aware of the global AIDS pandemic. There are currently 33.3 million people living with HIV, two thirds of which reside in Sub Saharan Africa. The theme for this year is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’, focused on having treatment and care available to everyone that needs it, reducing social injustice, and changing negative society attitudes towards the disease.
HIV/AIDS remains one of the biggest killers of modern times and is a principal focus of Millennium Development Goal 6. Over the past 30 years AIDS has resulted in the death of 30 million people and has caused an untold amount of suffering across the world. Despite being a global issue, HIV/AIDS has hit those in the developing world most extensively, with 97% of new infections coming from low-middle income countries.
The past few years have seen a global turnaround towards achieving MDG6 – deaths have been reduced by 20%, and 56 countries have manage to stabilize or reduce new HIV infections. These results can be attributed to improved access to HIV treatments, improvements in unsafe sexual behavior and less cross-infection from mother to child.
In spite of progress, even amongst these countries that have stabilized, many may still miss the MDG target of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015. Such countries include South Africa, which has the largest epidemic in the world (5.6million people) and Swaziland where 25.9% of adults are living with the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for people to be treated with better tolerated drugs, and earlier, reducing the chances of opportunistic infections. Global organisations, alongside private investment from sources such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Red Campaign, have not only provided funding and treatment initiatives, but have also brought the cause to the forefront of public awareness.
Here at BioMed Central we are committed to advancing the understanding of HIV/AIDS with the hope of one day reaching UNAIDS’ goal of ‘Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths’. Our Open Access journals including Aids Research and Therapy, Journal of the International AIDS Society, Retrovirology and BMC Infectious Diseases, are excellent sources of research relating to the disease, along with our Global Health and Infectious Diseases Gateways, that feature articles from across all our publications.
Although the outlook is more positive than it has been, every day there are a staggering 7000 new HIV infections each day. Despite 5.2 million people receiving treatment to keep them alive, UNAIDS have declared that 10million more urgently need access to these life-saving drugs. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as a result of major donor funding withdrawal, has failed to reach the £8.1bn forecasted to keep the programs it finances running for the next 3 years. This, alongside the health charity Médecins Sans Frontières also warning that the cost of antiretroviral drugs needed to provide treatment is rapidly escalating, means a double blow for achieving an ‘AIDS free generation in 2015’.
HIV/AIDS prevention remains a critical public health priority and so on this World AIDS Day the global community must continue to push for support, to build on existing momentum in the hope of having ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’ for everyone.
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