Although every December 1st we set aside a day – World AIDS Day – to address the global problems of AIDS, we must be aware that for millions of people around the world who are living with HIV and AIDS December 1st is just another day. Worldwide, over 33.2 million people are living with this disease and in 2007, 2.1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses. HIV/AIDS is not like the common cold, you don't get to take a little medicine and have a cure. This disease is here to stay. It is, in fact, a global killer.
So one day doesn't seem sufficient to address this massive killer of men, women and children. One day cannot give proper credence to the magnitude of this war that we are waging. One day out of 365 is barely enough time to acknowledge all those who live with this disease the other 364 days of the year.
For those who live with HIV, it is a daily struggle – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It is our responsibility to fully acknowledge that daily struggle whenever we speak about ending this disease.
And it is our responsibility to push the richest country in the world – America – to do more. We must demand that the American government increase its financial commitment to fight global AIDS. We must demand that the American government abandon its ideological abstinence-until-marriage HIV prevention strategies and instead adopt science-based, proven prevention programs. The most vulnerable citizens – young people, women and girls, and cultural minorities – are not being properly educated about HIV. Without adequate education, any HIV/AIDS prevention policy is doomed to fail.
Although a report "2007 AIDS Epidemic Update" recently released by UNAIDS shows that HIV rates are on the decline, more adult women than ever before are now living with HIV and about 40 percent of all new infections in 2007 occurred among youth ages 15-24. The report also highlights the "knowledge of safe sex and HIV" remains low in many countries and among many high risk populations. Additionally, many do not believe that they are at risk of being infected.
Twenty-five years into this epidemic and young people, who weren't even born when the epidemic began, are now its biggest victims.
These are outrageous statistics!
These are statistics that should never, ever have happened!
These are statistics that must be changed!
How did this happen? How did we get to the point where our youngest and brightest live with a devastating, often debilitating disease on a daily basis? And how can we, in good conscience, think that devoting one day out of 365 is enough?
We've waited twenty-six years for adults to stop this disease – and you haven't. You haven't even come close. What you have done is far too little, way too late, and to continue to ask us to wait is both cruel and meaningless. There are now almost 12 million young people who are HIV positive – that's 12 million infections which could have been prevented.
From now on, we need to understand that if one of us is infected with this disease, we are all affected by it. That is the only way we will stop AIDS. We must all start living the other 364 days like AIDS is in our life every minute, every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
One day is not enough!