In commemorating the day, those engaged in the fight against AIDS had something to celebrate. Worldwide deaths from the disease have dropped for the first time. Fewer children are being born with AIDS through mother-to-unborn baby transmission, thanks to the use of better disease-fighting drugs.
But AIDS remains a worldwide epidemic. About 34 million people worldwide were living with AIDS at the end of last year. Deaths were 1.7 million in 2011, down from 1.8 million in 2010 and a peak of 2.3 million in 2005.
“These new statistics are extraordinarily exciting, but there’s still a long way to go,” said Patricia Bartlett, from the Duke University AIDS Research and Treatment Center, who has worked in the field of HIV/AIDS at Duke since 1982. “Stigma is still a problem. I think people who are living with HIV infection probably perceive that it is worse than it is, except that in some communities, it does remain high – particularly for people who are injecting drugs, men who have sex with men, and sex workers.”
While attention and resources are rightly committed to other prevalent diseases, AIDS remains a concern, and awareness and action remain important. Durham County has the fourth-highest rate of HIV (29.9 per 100,000) among North Carolina’s counties, nearly 30 cases per 100,000 residents. At the end of last year, 1,467 Durham residents were living with HIV.
World AIDS Day was recognized around the globe on Saturday.
“World AIDS Day allows us to gather and raise awareness, honor those who have passed and celebrate accomplishments in treatment and prevention,” said Monica Curry, public health education specialist with the Durham County Department of Public Health. “The community has a powerful voice and can influence decisions related to research and work with elected officials to advocate for more prevention and better care for people living with HIV.”
Awareness and prevention are so important in fighting a communicative disease such as HIV/AIDS. As we learned last week, that fight is far from over.