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World AIDS Day: The End of HIV/AIDS is in Sight
I was a teenager in the 80s and remember the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic—the disease that doesn't discriminate. It crossed cultural divides, devastated the rich and the poor, didn't care about your sexual orientation, and went after celebrities as well as those far from the limelight, like babies.
Shortly after entering the scene in a major way In the U.S., we started learning about prevention. And people fought the disease with a vengeance. The more people were educated and the more people followed the preventative measures, the more lives were saved. And things started looking up. We were able to see a drastic cause and effect between prevention and then medication and a cure. And the U.S. started breathing easier that hope was in sight for the ending of AIDS in our country.
But things were just beginning to decline in Africa. And now 30 years later, more and more lives have given way to HIV/AIDS. I got up close and personal with the devastation when I traveled to Kenya last year.
I saw people getting tested. I met with doctors who were treating those infected. And I learned about how Antiretrolviral drugs (ARVs) are helping protect people from this deadly disease there.
World AIDS Day
Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a summit on World AIDS Day organized by ONE.org.
What impressed me the most at this summit was the "it takes a village" approach to fighting AIDS. In addition to hearing from former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, President Obama joined the event, re-commiting the U.S. to help globally to end AIDS by 2015. Then, we heard a panel discussion that has forever changed me. I watched Republican and Democrat politicians, the CEO of Coca-Cola, celebrities like Bono of U2 and the amazing Alicia Keys, representatives from the faith-based community, a doctor from Africa alongside an HIV positive African survivor whose life had been forever changed from anti retrol virus medications, and more discuss what needs to be done to end AIDS.
I remember the CEO of Coca-Cola discussing how as the largest employer in Africa and with thousands of distribution channels, his organization was able to help get the drugs to the people. Without distribution, the drugs would have not made it to the tiny villages. Then, the faith-based community shared how their efforts in reaching the village leaders by taking a faith-based approach helped educate the people and accept the help. Without the willingness to take the drugs, you would have had drugs arrive at a village and not make it into the hands of the people. From the companies who created the medication to the people who made it possible to get the medication in the hands of the people, and every person along the way who has petitioned their congresspeople to vote in favor of global aid, we have collectively made an amazing amount of progress in a relatively short period of time and the end of HIV/AIDS is almost in sight.
The only thing that could impact that is cutting foreign spending on global aid. Lots of chatter is going on right now in the U.S. about the "Fiscal Cliff." And some feel we should cut all line items in our budget. But, not all line items should be treated equal. Some do not impact lives saved like global aid.
How You Can Help End HIV/AIDS
What can you do to ensure that the end of AIDS happens?
Raise your voice and let your congresspeople know to not cut back on the global fund. Only less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget goes toward global aid. It's a line item in the budget where money spent equals lives saved. Visit ONE for more information.