Sunday, December 01 2013 00:52

World AIDS Day 25th Anniversary: See How Far We’ve Come

By  Gay Life

The 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day will be commemorated on December 1, 2013 to raise awareness about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Over the past 25 years, anniversary themes have generated support for programs promoting testing, treatment and care services. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) theme for 2013 Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation urges communities to envision a day when there are no new HIV infections.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), joins the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) World AIDS Campaign, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in supporting the 2013 observance of World AIDS Day. 

Globally, UNAIDS estimates there are over 35 million people living with HIV.  Nationally, the CDC estimates more than 1.1 million people living in the United States are living with HIV infection. As of December 31, 2012, over 29,000 Marylanders were living with HIV.  At the end of 2011, Maryland statistics indicated 17,962 males living with HIV; 10,235 females living with HIV, and approximately 6,250 Marylanders living with HIV who were unaware of their status. 

In 1988, the first World AIDS Day theme, Talk About HIV and AIDS, focused on HIV prevention through communication and education.  In 1994 the theme, AIDS and Family, focused on the crucial role of families in responding to the epidemic.  Eleven years later, in 2005, the theme, Action Makes a Difference, was highlighted in a World AIDS Day statement by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt who stated, “As the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS points out, we must commit ourselves to victory. The virus is a tenacious adversary, but it is preventable and treatable, and it cannot be accepted as inevitable. As long as HIV/AIDS remains, we will continue to take action against it -- because we know action makes a difference.”

In 2009, Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPAR) - a federal initiative to combat HIV around the world, highlighted the theme of Working Together. Ambassador Goosby stated, “the ability to mount an effective response has always been realized through the concerned effort of government, non-governmental organizations, community based organizations in partnership with patients and people who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and it is this collaborative effort that holds everybody to the task.”

The 2013 national theme, Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation encourages individuals to equip themselves with HIV prevention knowledge and to access testing and care services. As long as HIV remains we must take responsibility and continue to take action against it.

To be responsible everyone is encouraged to share and follow the CDC recommendations for routine HIV testing for all persons ages 13-64.  HIV risk behaviors should be avoided, such as failure to use condoms, being too intoxicated by alcohol and drugs to make wise decisions, having multiple sex partners, sharing needles, and exchanging sex for drugs or money.

To be successful, we need to end community silence by stopping discrimination and stigma which only serve to keep the epidemic hidden.  We need to build community capacity and routinely share the scientific and medical advancements achieved through treatment. We need to educate the public that treatment works. Treatment works to reduce the replication of the virus; to prevent the virus from spreading; and to prevent people from become infected. 

Through shared responsibility we will be able to achieve a Maryland with no new HIV infections and attain an AIDS free generation. For additional information about HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and support go to http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/SitePages/infectious_disease.aspx. To find an HIV testing location near you, contact your local health department at 410-767-5227 or visit www.hivtest.org. Maryland-based agencies and programs may request targeted HIV/AIDS educational materials for their local community events by calling 410.799.1940 or by contacting the DHMH Prevention and Health Promotion Administration, Infectious Disease Bureau at 1.800.358.9001.

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