Jan 20, 2016, 10:04 AM
Science, awareness and compassion have largely swept away the ignorance and fear that accompanied the dark, early days of the AIDS awareness efforts.
Still, nearly 30 years after the first World AIDS day, stigma lingers. More than 1 million people in the U.S. have the virus that causes AIDS with the highest number of new AIDS cases among young adults who may not realize they are infected.
And so the virus continues to spread, infecting approximately 50,000 Americans each year. About 15,000 Americans with AIDS die each year.
Worldwide, 1.5 million people died of HIV-related causes, while another 2 million were diagnosed bringing the number of those living with the virus to about 35 million.
In 2011, an estimated 1,557 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV in New Jersey, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the state ranking ninth in the number of U.S. diagnoses.
While men who have sex with men represent just 2 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 63 percent of all new HIV infections, as well as more than half of people living with HIV.
World AIDS Day remains a vital means of emphasizing the need for HIV testing among those in the high-risk groups -- as well as a reminder that HIV observes no socioeconomic or demographic guidelines.
It’s a time to reflect on advances that were unimaginable not too long ago and size up the challenges that remain.
Among the efforts to meet those challenges are programs such as “Together as One,” a presentation including HIV education and testing, planned today at the Mount Zion AME Church community center in Trenton.
“Although HIV/AIDS statistics have fallen across the globe, the number of people affected by the epidemic continues to rise,” says the Rev. J. Stanley Justice of Mount Zion AME. “Even though statistics may show that AIDS-related deaths have decreased in the past decade and new infections rates are down ... far too many individuals are unaware of their status.”
Also today, the World Health Organization will release new guidelines on providing antiretrovirals as an emergency prevention following HIV exposure, and on the use of an antibiotic to prevent HIV-related infections.
Last year, about 13 million people obtained the simple treatments that can prolong health and prevent transmission.
Globally and at the grassroots level, greater public awareness is essential -- as well as addressing stigma, amplifying efforts to lower new infections, and increasing access to HIV screening and treatment.
We are fortunate that those services are readily available in this region. On this World AIDS Day, we urge you to use them.
“Because of the lack of education on AIDS, discrimination, fear, panic, and liessurrounded me.”