World AIDS Day

The world is slowly moving closer to a target of zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination against the HIV-positive population. Although the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) declared in October that the number of new HIV infections had fallen one third since 2001, in 2012 alone, 2.3 million new cases were reported.

To entirely eliminate new infections requires a global strategy for prevention (with education programs and access to prophylactics), wide testing for new infections and providing antiretroviral treatment early on, which—according to health authorities—allows those infected to live longer with the virus at undetectable levels.

All this requires funding, and industrialized nations and emerging economies alike must commit to increasing their contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

Once the number of people who start antiretroviral treatment is greater than the number of new cases, the target of zero deaths will be within reach.

None of this can be achieved, however, without attacking the social conditions that increase the incidence of infection, particularly in countries where the HIV-positive population, homosexuals, transgender people, drug addicts, and sex workers are penalized, persecuted or attacked.

And particular attention must be focused on women and girls living in conditions that make them vulnerable to the infection, and on completely eliminating gender-based violence.

For the more than 35 million people around the world living with HIV—including more than one million here in the United States—the fight against the virus and the stigma surrounding it is a battle waged daily, not just on World AIDS Day.