World AIDS Day is a time to remember, but there’s also a lot to celebrate this year. Things are looking hopeful in many parts of the world.
The UN’s global program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has announced in its World AIDS Day report that 25 countries have seen a 50% drop in new HIV infections over the past ten years – more than half of them in Africa, the region most affected by HIV. The drop has been as much as 73% in Malawi, 71% in Botswana, 68% in Namibia and 58% in Zambia. In Zimbabwe, which has also been heavily affected by HIV, new infections have dropped by 50%, and in South Africa and Swaziland the figure’s 41%.
Ghana, which I have a special interest in as my son’s Dad is from Ghana, has also reported a 66% drop, and is also one of just 7 countries globally that has achieved more than 75% coverage of pregnant women receiving treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
UNAIDS also reports that sub-Saharan Africa has reduced AIDS-related deaths by one third in the last six years.
This fantastic progress is largely due to a massive scale-up of HIV treatments access and mother-to-child transmission reduction programs. Half of the reduction in infections has been among newborns.
And we can expect more progress on that front – the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has just announced 900,000 more people are receiving HIV therapy in the past year, via their funded programs. And that’s just in low-income countries.
Speaking of HIV treatments … or rather, singing …
There’s also a lot of hope on the prevention front. Bridget Haire, bio-ethicist, & as it happens, Vice-President of the organisation I work for, has written a great outline of new biomedical HIV prevention possibilities, and suggests that adopting some of these strategies could set Australia back on track to be a global leader in the response to HIV. (Sadly we are lagging at present, with an 8% increase in infections from 2010 to 2011).
Even with such progress in microbicides, treatment as prevention etc., condoms should not be neglected. (Especially not in fashion – check out the condom couture at this fundraiser).
Condom manufacturer Durex has a campaign running right now that serves the convenient dual purpose of promoting both its product and safe sex. For every tweet or Facebook share they will donate a condom to an HIV prevention agency. Their target is 2.5 million condoms – which is the number of people infected with HIV in 2011. They’re almost halfway there, so get clicking.
UNAIDS has set ambitious global targets for 2015, which include:
- Reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50%
- Reducing transmission of HIV among people who inject drugs by 50%
- Eliminating new infections among children
- Eliminating stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV through promotion of laws and policies that ensure the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms
The ultimate aim is ‘getting to zero’. That’s zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS related deaths.
In some places these aims are well on track; in others, not so good. In the lead up to world AIDS Day a number of countries have been reporting increases in infections – among them Russia (mainly among injecting drug users), China and Indonesia; and in many countries infections have been rising among gay men and other men who have sex with men.
So campaigns to promote safe sex, sexual health, STI prevention, equity for women, and ending stigmatisation, are still crucial. In my work I’m lucky enough to stumble across many excellent online initiatives and World AIDS Day is a good opportunity to share some of them. Hence …
The World AIDS Day Collection (2012)
Shuga is a stylish TV series from Kenya, sponsored by MTV and UNICEF (among others) & targeting young people, about love, sex, relationships, gender, exploitation & empowerment.
Global Dialogues produces a range of short videos that address much the same themes as above, as well as stigma, HIV testing, the temptations of long distance truckers, and more, often using humour to get the point across. They seem to be mostly produced in Senegal but have been dubbed over in Swahili, Arabic, French, English, Kinyarwanda, Yoruba, Igbo, Lingala, Amharic, Twi, Wolof … the list goes on.
Most annoyingly, it seems you can’t embed individual videos from YouTube – just the whole set. I wanted to show you the one that is about HIV+ people’s fear of being stigmatised – but you can click through on the ‘next’ button & check out the ones that catch your interest. I also chuckled at ‘1 woman, 3 condoms’.
Stigma is a huge problem not only for people with HIV, but also for people who may be at high risk of becoming HIV+ – such as gay men and sex workers. Love Patrol is a ground-breaking TV cop show from Vanuatu, that has a string of firsts for the Pacific – first out gay character, first person with HIV, etc. – all portrayed sympathetically as the ordinary human beings that they are.
Apparently the show is hugely popular. People gather to watch it communally and it generates lots of discussion about HIV, sexuality and related issues – as well as making the Pacific a safer place for gay people and people with HIV.
Meanwhile, in America, there’s fun of a different kind:
Well that’s it from me for WAD 2012. Hope you enjoyed the show.
I’ll leave you with a message from the CEO of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé.
But wait, there’s more – Michel Sidibé playing soccer. After all, this is a blog with connections to Africa.