World Aid Day
Today marks the 20th World AIDS Day. In these last 20 years, medical research has sparked marvelous breakthroughs in the treatment of HIV/AIDS around the world--even in developing countries where for many years since the outbreak of this once-deadly, now nearly chronic, disease treatment was inaccessible due to cost.
Yet before we pat ourselves on the back too much for the successes we have made around the world in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, we must remember that many successes were hard-won and some have yet to come.
In the US, our government (specifically the FDA) still supports a policy that prevents men who have sex with men from donating blood--a hangover from when HIV was perceived to be a "homosexual disease" that would contaminate the donated blood supply and when homosexuality was, and still is, considered a "high-risk" behavior leading to HIV infection. But the US is not alone in its position, , China even bans lesbians from donating blood due to their "high-risk" behaviors.
Moreover, there is still the need for foreign governments to be accountable for their provision of HIV/AIDS drugs and other health policies. Recent news reports have revealed how South Africa and other countries failed to adequately respond to the epidemic at its apex and are just beginning to make up for it now through comprehensive prevention and
treatment programs. Moreover, as we know. while the world focused on Africa, HIV/AIDS spread across Asia among sex workers, then their sexual partners and then to families. There isn't a country in the world that has been left untouched by HIV--therefore, every country has a responsibility to have sound policy, adequate resources, and scientifically-based education programs for its people.
So on this World AIDS Day 2008--where the theme is LEAD, EMPOWER, DELIVER--remember to consider how each one of us can follow that mantra and ask our governments to do the same. It's the only way that it's possible that 20 years from now AIDS will no longer be an epidemic around the world and we will have been faithful to honoring the memories of the millions who have died at the hands of this dreaded virus.
Summer Johnson, PhD