Taking place on December 1st every year, World AIDS day serves as an opportunity for all those fighting against HIV to unite, to show their support for those living with HIV/AIDS and to remember those who have died. With figures now estimating global HIV prevalence at over 34 million, there is little argument about it being one of the most pressing issues facing the world today. More than 25 million people died from AIDS related illnesses between 1981 and 2007 with approximately 2.7 new infections and 2 million deaths in 2008 alone.
Nowhere is the issue more pressing than in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where 22.5 million people live with HIV/AIDS - 68% of the global total. The three countries with highest prevalence – Swaziland, Botswana and Zimbabwe – account for a third of all those infected. In some regions of SSA, a combination of geographical, political, economic and health factors have meant that over the past two decades HIV/AIDS prevalence has increased from less than 1% of the population to over 40%. As Purene Bareetsi (AIDS Coordinator from Ministry of Education & Skills Development, Botswana) said, ‘everyone is either infected or affected’.
At the national level, the disease is threatening to overwhelm the stability of countries’ economies, infrastructures, and demographics. Because of, and despite lack of economic wealth and cultural factors, SSA has perhaps the most challenges to overcome in order to readdress the causes and proliferators of the disease. While annual global spending on AIDS in LMICs is $8.9 billion, it is estimated that $14.9 billion is needed for a truly effective response.
Despite initial action from the UK government with hard-hitting awareness campaigns, HIV/AIDS is more prevalent than ever in the UK. Although there have been improvements in laws and support for people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as scientific advances, poor understanding, stigma and discrimination still surrounds this prominent issue . Prevalence rates have more than trebled in the last 10 years and now over 90,000 people live with HIV/AIDS in the UK. Campaigners and activists are trying to revive the education campaigns to dispel the complacency that pervades across the country. Lack of understanding, education and personal responsibility for the disease means that as little as 30% of British people can correctly identify all the different modes of transmission of HIV. Furthermore, it is estimated that 26% of those people living with HIV/AIDS in the UK are unaware of their status, and may be unknowingly infecting others.
WACL groups working in HIV
A number of our own community links across Wales have recognised the urgency of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
• The link between Swansea and Monrovia, Liberia aims to contribute to combating HIV/AIDS in Liberia through supporting and skill sharing with an alliance of local public health NGOs, Swansea based practitioners and Liberian Diaspora.
>>> They are hosting a World's Aids Day event at the Monkey Cafe in Swansea – 1/12/11 from 8pm to about 2am. Donation for this event will now be £3 and you will also get a raffle ticket to have a chance of winning a prize. All funds raised will go in aid of Wales Liberia Connect HIV/AIDS projects in Swansea and Monrovia, Liberia-West Africa.
• The Caernarfon-Mkushi (Zambia) Education Project, amongst other things, runs adult education classes and special classes on HIV/AIDS awareness.
• The link between Penygraig and Cape Town sees ‘Valley Kids’ and ‘Mzansi Cymru’ work together in using community arts to bring about social change and increase self-esteem of young HIV-positive people, through activities such as photography, painting and theatre.
• Swaziaid (Denbigh & Ruthin – Siphofaneni, Swanziland) aims to raise support for the people of Swaziland in their fight with the HIV/AIDS epidemic through poverty reduction, education and health programmes
• The Pontypridd-Mbale link’s ‘Goats Scheme’ purchases and distributes goats to HIV/AIDS orphans and widows so that they may be used to pay for school fees, medical treatment, school books etc. So far PONT have distributed goats to over 450 families with much success.
What should I do on World AIDS Day?
And generally - increase awareness, fight prejudice, improve education, raise money.
> People’s World AIDS day videos, including from Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Annie Lennox, HIV positive individuals and others.
> Avert website.
> BBC article: ‘HIV/Aids: Why were the campaigns successful in the West?’
> National AIDS Trust World AIDS Dat website.
> Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru website.
Above mentioned recommended reading, plus:
> Bareestsi, Purene: Ministry AIDS Coordinator, Ministry of Education & Skills Development, Botswana. Interview conducted Sept 2010 by Peter Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org).
> UNAIDS. (2009, November 24). Press Release: 'Eight-year trend shows new HIV infections down by 17% - most progress seen in sub-Saharan Africa.
> UNAIDS. (2010). Global Report Fact Sheet - Sub-Saharan Africa.
> Walker, B. D., & Kaufmann, S. H. (2009). AIDS and Tuberculosis: A Deadly Liaison. Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-Blackwell.