Today – 1 Dec – is World AIDS Day. In earlier posts I’ve described the global AIDS epidemic as the most urgent humanitarian crisis facing the world today. Just how bad is the AIDS crisis? Well, imagine if every single person in Australia had AIDS. Now double it. Yep, that’s right – there are currently 39.4 million people around the world living with HIV. 39.4 million. For most of them HIV is a death sentence. But it doesn’t have to be.
There are drugs available to treat AIDS. However, while these drugs are readily available in most wealthy countries, less than 1/2 million people in low and middle income countries are receiving antiretroviral treatment. As the latest UN report details, this means nine out of every ten people who need antiretroviral
treatment are not getting it. During 2004 there has been growing recognition that it is not enough simply to talk about prevention. Increasing access to antiretroviral treatment is crucial.
A big part of meeting this challenge is increasing the global pool of funds available for fighting AIDS. Earlier this year Australia doubled the money it is giving to AIDS work in the region ($600 million
over the next six years). While this is good to see, much much more needs to be done — especially in our region where governments have been slow to act and AIDS is now spreading rapidly. What a shame then that on this important day our Federal Health Minister could not come up with anything more substantial than simply saying that it is up to those who are at risk to take more responsibility for their actions (read here).