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Marking World AIDS Day

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There’s a lot going on to commemorate World AIDS Day and the work yet to be done — the theme is accountability. From the World AIDS campaign site:

In 2000, heads of state made a promise to halt and begin to reverse the spread of AIDS by 2015.

New reports by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that, as of 2006, the epidemic continues to spread in every region of the world. By now more than 65 million people have been infected with HIV and well over 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, 2.9 million in 2006 alone. At this rate, the WHO predicts that in the next 25 years another 117 million people will die, making AIDS the third leading cause of death worldwide.

The promise made in 2000 as part of the Millennium Development Goals has been followed by many other targets and commitments over the past six years.

With “accountability” the theme of this World AIDS Day on 1 December, campaigners across the globe are calling leaders to account not just for good intentions, but for action to make those promises a reality.

Some news and headlines relevant in light of this day:

* Clinton Makes Deal For 3rd World AIDS Patients.

Former President Bill Clinton and two Indian pharmaceutical companies have struck an agreement to cut prices of HIV and AIDS treatment for children, making the lifesaving drugs far more accessible worldwide.

That’s according to the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative, a charity set up by Clinton, which says the companies will supply drugs for HIV-positive children at prices as low as 16 cents a day, which amounts to less than $60 a year. The foundation says the deal will enable an additional 100,000 HIV-positive children in 62 countries to receive treatment in 2007

* HRC has released its third annual World AIDS Day report card, and it’s another year of failed policies in Washington.

The report card, for the last three years, has rated the U.S. Congress’ and the Bush administration’s response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in four key areas: prevention, care and treatment, research and global AIDS. This year, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS, the report card includes a new category evaluating our nation’s leaders on efforts to combat AIDS-related discrimination.

“We are hopeful that with a new congressional leadership the failed policies of the past will not continue to be repeated,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Since we began this report card three years ago, the Bush administration and congressional leadership’s response to this global pandemic has been grossly inadequate. The American people sent a message in these midterm elections that they want to see real actions on issues affecting people’s lives, and we are optimistic that their voices will be heard in relation to the efforts to combat this disease.”

Since the Human Rights Campaign issued its first World AIDS Day report card in 2004, the grades have continued to fall well below passing. The 2004 grades were: Prevention (F); Care and Treatment (D); Research (C); and Global AIDS (C). The 2005 grades were: Prevention (F); Care and Treatment (F); Research (D); and Global AIDS (C).

Joe Solomnese’s video message for World AIDS Day is here.

* In the heartland, education continues as more than 300 people attended the Oklahoma HIV/STD Conference on Wednesday. Despite advances in research and medications, getting the message of safe sex to young people is still a challenge. (365gay):

[P]arents and schools need to focus their safe sex education on not just high school students, but middle school students, said Michael Harmon, chief of HIV/STD Service for the Oklahoma Department of Health. Despite the concerns some parents have about their middle school child being taught about sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex practices, Harmon said it’s necessary because children are becoming sexually active at younger ages.

“Most parents seem to be reluctant to talk about those issues about sexual activity, and they leave it up to the schools,” Harmon said. “We can’t rely on abstinence as a sole means of avoiding these infectious diseases.” Between 175 to 220 new cases of HIV are reported annually in Oklahoma, Harmon said. As of Sept. 30, 4,297 Oklahomans were living with HIV or AIDS, he said.

* The HIV Research Section of the San Francisco Department of Public Health invites readers to participate in a raffle to raise awareness of Project T, the new HIV prevention study for gay and bisexual men  and to increase awareness about new HIV prevention strategies, in light of World AIDS Day. Any person who signs up for its newsletter on HIV clinical trials research between December 1 and December 20 is automatically entered into a raffle to receive an iPod Nano or equivalent gift certificate on iTunes. Emails won’t be marketed or shared. You can sign up at www.helpfighthiv.org.

* Eduardo Hernandez, executive director of The Center in Honolulu, which serves the LGBTIQ community there, alerts me to the news that the state is poised to lose funding for the Hawaii AIDS Clinical Trials Unit (HACTU), which is part of a cooperative group consisting of 34 AIDS Clinical Trials Units (ACTUs) in the United States and a collaborative network of 12 International Clinical Trials Units. NIH plans to shutter the facility. Eduardo would like to get folks (not just in HI)  involved to contact legislators and policymakers to keep this research facility in the Pacific. You can read more about the dilemma here, here and here.* In NYC, a a public service announcement (PSA) competition will take place today for all New York City public high schools students. The “What’s Your Angle: Teens Take on AIDS” competition is meantto challenge young New Yorkers to engage in critical dialogue about how their generation is being affected by HIV/AIDS.

NetAid will open registration for the challenge, providing students with educational materials about global HIV/AIDS and training on communication and messaging techniques (visit http://www.netaid.or… for details). Teams of one to 10 students will then have six weeks to explore the issue of HIV/AIDS in both a local and global context, discover solutions for addressing the problems, express them creatively and powerfully in a short video.

After reviewing videos online, a panel of expert judges from the public health, media, culture and education fields will select a winning team. The team will spend a day with Cable Positive, learning techniques of shooting, directing and film production to transform their video into a professional PSA. The final PSA will be aired on both NetAid and Cable Positive’s websites, with pending plans for a television airing on June 27, National HIV Testing Day.

* Incoming House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement on World AIDS day:

“In San Francisco alone, we have lost more than 18,000 friends, family and loved ones to this disease. Yet as we grieve for those we have lost, we are filled with hope as we see the strength of those with HIV/AIDS who are fighting and living full lives. This would not be possible without the help of the federal government through initiatives such as the Ryan White CARE Act. The act has greatly improved the quality and availability of health care services for people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. I was proud to be a part of the creation of the Ryan White CARE Act, and I was saddened this year to oppose its reauthorization because the funding level was not adequate to meet the needs of those served. Resources are critical to preventing and treating this disease, and we are not allocating enough at home or around the world.

“On World AIDS Day, let us come together to renew our call to fight this global pandemic and strengthen our commitment to helping those affected by HIV/AIDS.”

* Papa Ratzi clings to the fantasy that abstinence ed alone will halt the AIDS pandemic; he should check his mailbox. Catholics for a Free Choice will deliver a letter to the Pope signed by people from more than 110 countries (including 25 members of the European Parliament) asking him to  rescind the ban on the use of condoms. Jon O’Brien, executive vice president of Catholics for a Free Choice:

“The injunction against condoms was created at a time when AIDS did not exist. A leader’s first commitment should always be to those he serves, not to a dated ideology. By lifting the ban on condoms, he will enable couples and families the world over to protect themselves and their loved ones from the ravages of AIDS, and choose a truly pro-life path.”

* And Jay has a message for everyone — get tested!

Seriously folks, I understand the anxiety associated with an HIV test. One of my first thoughts when I found out I was positive was “at least I never have to take another one of these awful HIV tests!” Trust me, I get it!

…Wearing red ribbons is a nice gesture. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean a hill of beans. Getting tested on the other hand means knowing your status. And whatever the result, knowledge is power.

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Pam Spaulding

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