World AIDS Day: Mourning, Celebration, and Rededication

By Adam Taylor 12-02-2008

Yesterday our nation and world commemorated the 20th global observance of World AIDS Day. Like in past years, the day was marked by candlelight vigils, services of this remembrance, and awareness raising events. In addition to remembering and honoring loved ones lost to this preventable and treatable disease, we can now begin to celebrate many of the hard fought gains that have been made in the fight against AIDS around the world. According to UNAIDS, finally fewer people are being infected with HIV and fewer people are dying of AIDS around the world. Over the past five years close to 4 million people in the developing world have been able to access lifesaving antiretroviral drugs, thanks in large part to increased funding through the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. HIV/AIDS has been transformed into one of those rare issues that garner true bipartisan support, in part because of the broad social movement composed of people living with HIV, students, health care workers, and faith advocates that have pushed on the outside to make the issue to transcend partisan politics and ideological stalemate. In July, this broad coalition helped push through Congress a $48 billion over five year reauthorization of the Tom Lantos and Henry Hyde Global Leadership Act with $48 billion. We must celebrate that fatalism, denial, and apathy are being replaced by greater leadership, hope, and action.

Yet World AIDS Day is also a day to confront the mountains that still need to be moved in order to end this epidemic. The world is still losing the struggle to prevent new infections. For every two people who start taking treatment today, another five will become newly infected. As a resident of our nation's capitol, I'm painfully aware that one in eight people living in D.C. is living with HIV. While attention has often shifted abroad, the crisis of HIV/AIDS in the U.S., particularly among African-Americans, has turned into an emergency that demands a PEFPFAR-like response from a new Obama administration. These unacceptable realities require us to rededicate ourselves to the work of tearing down the walls of stigma that too often still surround the disease and redress the marginalization that so often fuels the epidemic. The pandemic reveals both our vulnerability and our interdependence and lends greater urgency to addressing human rights abuses, gender inequalities, and weak health and social systems. Through ministries of care, education, empowerment, and advocacy we can help end this epidemic.

Adam TaylorAdam Taylor is senior policy director for Sojourners.

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