Celebrating World AIDS Day Around the World
World AIDS Day, celebrated every year on Dec. 1, invites us to remember the many people who have been affected by the illness and the work that must be done to end its deadly consequences. In Sub-Suharan Africa alone, up to 30 million have died of AIDS since 1882 and it remains a major public health concern in both developed and developing countries.
Yet, thankfully, much progress has been made and 2012 brought some good news and developments that are worth celebrating. Though AIDS is not curable, it is now highly treatable and the infection can be controlled with potent antiretroviral and combination therapies that allow those affected to live long lives after their diagnosis. Especially in the West, where these drugs are more accessible, people with AIDS can expect to achieve full viral suppression with regular treatment.
Particularly promising this year was the FDA’s approval of the first at-home HIV test, OraQuick, that developers hope will encourage more people to know their status. Though the epidemic has been forcefully curbed since 1995, when it was the number one cause of death among people aged 25-44, the rate of new infections has stubbornly held at around 50,000 per year. Many are hopeful that the privacy, affordability and ease of this test will finally start to chip away at this number.
There is also good news worldwide. This year’s World AIDS Day Report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS shows that the accelerated efforts to fight the infection in Africa and other low- to middle-income countries has worked. The rate of new HIV infections across 25 of these countries has been cut by 50% since 2001. The rate of new infections in newborns and children has dropped 24% in the last two years alone, and South Africa—one of the nations hit hardest by the epidemic—has scaled up its treatment rates by 75%, a number that translates to 1.7 million people who have received life-saving therapies.
World AIDS Day is a time to commemorate these collective achievements, but also a time to remind us of the theme of this holiday, which from 2011 to 2015 is “getting to zero.” Despite the great strides, this goal of zero deaths, zero new infections and zero discrimination has not yet been achieved and governments, health organizations and individuals must remain vigilant until it is.
It is with this dual sense of pride in the successes thus far and resolve for a continued fight that cities around the world recognize this holiday. Here are a few of the special ways it is being celebrated near and far.
Bono’s project (Red) has organized one of the biggest dance festivals of the year by partnering with DJ Tiesto to raise money and awareness for the fight against AIDS in Africa. Avicii, Calvin Harris, Martin Solveig and more big names from the EDM world will join Tiesto to help mobilize their massive fan base for this cause at Dance (RED). Those outside of Australia can view sets on Youtube as they stream live on Dec 1-2.
Sheryl Lee Ralph’s DIVA Foundation will be presenting its 22nd annual HIV/AIDS benefit concert featuring Faith Evans and a host of other talented performers. Simply Singing! is the longest-running AIDS benefit concert in the country and this year it will rock Club Nokia on Dec 1.
Mama’s Kitchen, a volunteer-driven charity that delivers nutritious meals to men, women and children affected by AIDS or cancer, recently served its 6 millionth meal. They are celebrating this and other achievements with their 21st Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Village Hillcrest. As “San Diego's premiere event to commemorate World AIDS Day,” guests will help to raise awareness, funds and hope for AIDS victims in their community.
Chicago celebrates in a sweet way with the World of Chocolate gala benefit. Each year, 40 of the city’s top chocolatiers compete for top marks from judges and guests as the decadent, innovating treats provide the chance to celebrate possibilities “in both the confectionary kitchen and the arena of global health.”
Unfortunately, Miami-Dade County has the third highest rate of new infections in the country. Today, residents will participate in an AIDS Day Walk to remember those they have lost and focus anew on this illness. The walk will end in a Tree of Life ceremony that will include holiday music, guest speakers and candlelight vigil.
The Liverpool vs. Southampton soccer match this Saturday will honor World AIDS Day in a big way. The world’s largest AIDS ribbon will be displayed across the field to honor all those affected.
To learn more about World AIDS Day and what remains to be done to achieve a world without AIDS, click here.
Read more LUX Health.