Last Wednesday, I read the findings of a recent Harvard study in which it was concluded that, if not for the policies of South Africa's most recent president (who lost his position in Septemeber), 330,000 lives could have been saved between 2001 and 2005. Instead of being provided with anti-retrovirals that have been proven effective in saving the lives of those affected with HIV, South Africans were encouraged to consume natural remedies, like garlic, to fight the disease that would kill them because their president and his government denied scientific evidence that HIV leads to AIDS and refused money from the Global Fund that would provide medication.
In spite of our country's current economic woes, we continue to be a nation with wealth that gives us the luxury to forget that the fight against AIDS wages on.
Some statistics from 2007 (unaids.org):
*33 million people are living with HIV.
*370,000 children under 15 became infected with HIV and about 260,000 died AIDS related deaths.
*Globally, of young people (age 15-24), only 40% of males and 38% of females possess accurate knowledge of how to avoid transmission of the disease.
*In India, a poor family affected by HIV can expect 82% of their annual income to disappear if they are to pay for treatment.
*In Sub-Saharan Africa, 12 million children have lost at least one parent to AIDS and this number continues to rise.
*Funding in low and middle income countries has increased sixfold since 2001
*While the rate of new infections is increasing in some parts of the world, globally the percentage of people with the virus has stabilized since 2000.
*There has been a decline in the percentage of pregnant young women with HIV in 82% of African countries.
*Because of uneven funding and in spite of great progress over the past several years, what the future brings for the AIDS epidemic can't be predicted and without greater decreases than we've seen thus far in new infections, current progress can't be sustained.