On World AIDS Day, Crisis Persists

Two young girls hold banners while marching on the streets of Harare, Dec. 1, 2005. People from all over the world are comemorating World Aids Day. AP

World AIDS Day was marked Thursday with marches, memorials and speeches honoring the millions who've died from the disease and highlighting global efforts to combat its spread.

The epidemic has killed at least 25 million people, including 3.1 million last year. If they don't get AIDS drugs, 6 million more people will die in the next year or two, notes health information Website WebMD.com.

New HIV infections have surged to a record high: an estimated 40,300,000 people. That's 5 million more than last year. Africa, with only 10 percent of the world's population, suffers over half of its HIV infections.

An estimated 2.2 million of those infected are children, according to the United Nations, which is marking this 18th World AIDS Day with a new campaign to fight the disease in children.

Rich Stearns, president of World Vision, Inc., a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide, says unlike a hurricane or tsunami, AIDS is a "constant, insidious disaster" stalking the globe.

In Washington, reaffirmed America's effort to fight the deadly disease around the world, and said that 40,000 new infections in the United States each year are "not inevitable, and it's not acceptable."

"Across Africa, this pandemic threatens the stability and the future of whole societies," Mr. Bush said. "In Asia, HIV/AIDS is a challenge that grows daily and must be confronted directly. Here in the United States, over a million of our citizens face this chronic condition."

Mr. Bush announced an initiative to help identify and reach out to faith-based and community organizations, which provide much of the health care in the developing world, and help them obtain access to U.S. assistance.

"By identifying and supporting these organizations, we will reach more people, more effectively, and save more lives," Mr. Bush said at the White House, which was recognizing World AIDS Day by dimming the lights in the North Portico for five minutes in the evening.

The initiative is part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which the administration says has supported lifesaving treatments for about 400,000 people living with the disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Before Mr. Bush announced the plan in 2003, only 50,000 of the more than 4 million people in that region needing immediate AIDS treatment were getting medicine, according to the administration.

Marches, Education Campaigns Around World

In India, some 70 HIV-infected women stepped out of the shadows during a rally in Golaghat, a town in eastern Assam state, to acknowledge that they are living with the disease and should not be shunned.

"I'm happy many women have paid heed to our call and have openly admitted to their HIV-positive status," said Jahnabi Goswami, 28. "Men with the disease need to follow suit."

An estimated 5.1 million people are living with HIV in India — the most in any single country except South Africa. Nigeria, Africa's most-populous nation, is third.
  • John Esterbrook

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