It is World AIDS Day. A day
in which we traditionally reflect upon the ravages of the pandemic.
Hard to imagine that some 40
million people worldwide are now infected with HIV.
And amazing to remember when there was no HIV.
I wonder if this is how our parents felt about influenza or polio when
they were younger.
(Kim: My parents weren't very
interested in AIDS, but they were scared that we'd get polio. I wasn't
allowed to drink from
a public drinking fountain.
my dad if he'd rather see 5 million kids die on the other side
of the Earth, or one of
his own kids. He didn't hesitate for a moment
and said . . . ")
December 01, 2005
World AIDS Day marked with
marches, education campaigns Schoolchildren in Senegal pledged to
abstain from sex and Indian village
off a veil of shame about their HIV status as World AIDS
Day was marked around the globe Thursday.
About 40 million people worldwide
are now infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Some 3 million
of them are expected
to die of AIDS
this year. Africa, with only 10% of the world's population, suffers
over half of its HIV infections.
Heavily Muslim Senegal is
a relative bright spot on the continent, with only about 1% of the
infected. Thursday, dozens of
packed into a schoolhouse in the central Senegal town of Fatick to
learn more about the disease. "Our teacher told us that AIDS is
a very dangerous disease," said 13-year old Aissatou Niang, wearing
a green headscarf. "Only abstinence can save us," she said
as her schoolmates giggled nearby.
"I've decided to wait until I'm 19 to have a relationship," said
Awa Sarr. "When I go back home I'll tell my brothers and sisters
about AIDS; that's why we're here."
Such frank talk among African
children is likely to cheer AIDS activists, who say science can help
treat those with HIV but that ignorance or taboos
surrounding its transmission and symptoms means AIDS is hard to halt—and
treat. "We want to say to people that HIV/AIDS is not a death
is treatment, there is life after HIV," Karen Stewart, with
the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, said at a rally in Lagos,
In India, some 70 HIV-infected
women stepped out of the shadows during
a rally in Golaghat, a town in the eastern state of Assam, to acknowledge
that they are living with the disease and should not be shunned. "I'm
happy many women have paid heed to our call and have openly admitted
to their HIV-positive status," said Jahnabi Goswami, 28. "Men
with the disease need to follow suit."
An estimated 5.1 million
people are living with HIV in India—the
most in any single country except South Africa. Nigeria, Africa's
most-populous nation, is third.
From the far reaches of
the globe, solidarity was shown with the world's
AIDS sufferers. Thousands of candles were to illuminate the Swedish
winter gloom, with AIDS vigils planned for the capital, Stockholm,
and a southern
The British government marked
World AIDS Day by contributing $48 million to the global fight against
Estonia's National Institute
for Health Development campaigned Thursday for increased tolerance
and better integration of HIV-infected
into Estonian society. With over 5,000 diagnosed cases, Estonia—a
tiny nation with 1.4 million inhabitants—has one of the highest
HIV infection rates in Europe, being spreadin the country mainly
through drug use.
World religious leaders
also added their voices to calls for renewed commitment to fight
the disease. Speaking Wednesday during his weekly
public audience to several thousand pilgrims and tourists gathered
in the rain in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, Pope Benedict
the figures on AIDS victims "alarming" and reiterated
the church's commitment to the care of the sick.
In a statement, Archbishop
Christodoulos, head of the Orthodox Church
of Greece, said AIDS sufferers "should not lose their faith
in God but see this major trial as a spiritual opportunity."
Aids Day, meant to boost awareness of the disease, didn't grab
everyone's attention. The day's events were canceled by royal
Thursday in Swaziland, among the hardest-hit countries and Africa's
last absolute monarchy, because they clashed with a traditional
for the same day. The announcement shocked activists in a country
of 1 million where more than 38% of adults are infected with
highest infection rate in the world.
Only a few dozen joined a
procession in Nigeria's biggest city of Lagos. "Since
I believe I don't have it, I don't see why I should march," said
Mufu Adebajo, a 22-year-old craftsman watching from his roadside
people will think I have it." (AP)