December 1st is World AIDS Day. This year it's more important than ever. It was instituted in 1988 to spread awareness of the severity of the HIV pandemic and how much work needs to be done to stem the tide. Local governments and organisations around the world answered the call and have been doing their part to fulfil the promise of the event each year since. But this year we face a big distraction – the economy.
All around the world, organisations are slashing their budgets and consumers like you and me are looking for ways to cut back. Where will these organisations and individuals look to cut? I guess I’d be naïve not to assume that funding of HIV treatment initiatives would escape their fiscal fitness program.
If you’re in a position to provide assistance or funding to HIV-related programs (and that’s all of us), I’d ask you to consider the cost of cutting back now.
Over the past 20 years, the global HIV community has made astounding advances in battling the pandemic. Back in 1988, the percentage of people receiving treatment who needed it was negligible. Today, millions have access to ARVs, including those in developing countries. Prevention and education campaigns are reaching new audiences all the time. Real strides have also been made in developing the medication and diagnostics required for proper treatment. The investment of time and money since 1988 is paying dividends today in terms of both hampering the spread of the disease and treating those already infected.
Unfortunately, HIV doesn’t slow down during a recession. It is always striving to move forward and will take swift advantage of any weakening of resolve. If treatment is interrupted for those already on ART, their health will be compromised and an increase in drug resistance is certain. If we don’t keep the number of people on treatment rising, AIDS deaths will jump even higher than the millions it already claims annually. And if we don’t keep prevention campaigns going strong, the virus will spread even faster.
This isn’t only a humanitarian concern, but an economic one as well. These negative consequences will result in enormous financial strain on the battle against HIV in the long run. This economic crisis is not just in Africa, but in everyone’s backyard. We need to keep in mind that life will go on during, and after, the recession, and we don’t want to undermine all the work we’ve done up to this point by not looking ahead.
HIV affects everyone and has the potential to be an even greater problem than it already is, on both our health and our economy. So do your part to spread awareness on this World AIDS Day. Here are 5 things you can do to keep the fight against HIV moving in the right direction.
- Write a blog post about World AIDS Day, or use other social media to spread the word
- Write a letter to the editor or an opinion column for your newspaper
- Call or write your local government official and tell them you believe that fighting HIV is still a priority
- Get involved in local World AIDS Day events, or create one if nothing is planned in your community
- Wear a red ribbon and encourage others to do so
If you have any ideas of your own, please share them in the comments section.