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Today Is World AIDS Day

Dec 1, 2009, 2:59 PM

Today December 1st is World AIDS Day, a day meant to create awareness on HIV/AIDS and commit ourselves to the cause.

It?s an opportunity for people all over the world to unite in the fight against the scourges of HIV and AIDS.

People living with the virus deserve love and care; after all they are human beings like us. 

By protecting ourselves and others we can stop the spread of HIV and AIDS. Stigma and discrimination against people living with the virus can even worsen the situation, thus the need for a change attitude.

Back home in The Gambia we acknowledge the giant strides made by the government and its partnering institutions in the fight against the pandemic.

Every person including those living with AIDS needs equal rights and justice. They need treatment, and the right to live.

The creation of the UNAIDS that brings together the strengths and resources of many different parts of the United Nations family, is a giant move in transforming the way the world responds to AIDS.

According to World Health Organisation, an estimated 33.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.

For us, this is a huge figure and we therefore urge all and sundry to do more to reduce the devastating effects of the pandemic.

The WHO estimates that since the availability of effective HIV drugs in 1996, some 2.9 million lives have been saved.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) wants adults and adolescents to receive anti-retroviral therapy (ART) before their immune system strength falls below 350 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

It also wants the Stavudine drug, widely is used in developing countries because of its low cost and widespread availability, to be phased out in favour of Zidovudine or Tenofovir drugs, which do not have the same long-term and irreversible side effects.

And for the first time, the WHO is calling on breastfeeding mothers or their babies, to be given the drugs to prevent transmission of the disease.

The International Development Minister, Mike Foster, said the guidelines would be supported, though they would "significantly increase the demand for treatment."

"The Department for International Development is committed to increasing access to effective and affordable HIV treatments," he said.

"That is why UK Aid supports the cheaper manufacturing of current treatments, and the Unitaid (the UN body on drugs for killer diseases) patent pool to help develop new, effective and affordable HIV treatments, particularly for children and for people living in developing countries."

Falling prices and increased testing have led to a marked rise in the number of people in the poorest parts of the world receiving treatment for HIV.

The number of people on anti-retroviral had risen by a million by the end of 2008, a 36% increase from the previous year, the WHO said.

We must strive hard to control the spread of the disease by abstaining ourselves from sex, use a condom or be faithful to one's partner.