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World AIDS Day 2006 – Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise

As in previous years, on December 1 the world focused attention on one of society’s greatest global threats to health - HIV/AIDS. Facilitated and supported by UNAIDS, a joint United Nations programme bringing together such key stakeholders as the WHO, UNICEF, and the World Bank, World AIDS Day has adopted the theme of “Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise” until 2010. By then, everyone hopes to see marked improvements in the global prevention and control of HIV/AIDS.

In 2006, the focus was on accountability, and the push was on to see fulfilment of commitments and goals set by world leaders to fight this seemingly unyielding pandemic.

However, the World AIDS Campaign has criticised progress to date. Objectives have not been achieved and the prevalence of the disease continues to escalate.

“Efforts to halt AIDS are falling far short of their targets. Over 25 million people have been lost to AIDS so far, and 4.3 million people were infected with HIV this year. The spread of HIV is quickening – with more people infected in 2006 than in any previous year. This is despite the number of promises by world leaders to provide services to curb the rates of infection and to bring down deaths. “

Notwithstanding the truth behind this statement, World AIDS Day saw multitudes of stakeholders spurred on by the continuing challenges to find common ground in fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Preparations and activities for World AIDS Day took place in a remarkable number of countries spanning every cultural and socio-economical group. People from Thailand and Zambia to Germany and the USA took to the streets, appeared in and on the media, visited schools, and broached political arenas to force awareness of the global effects of HIV/AIDS. They took the opportunity to stress that decision makers MUST be accountable for and keep their promises to ensure that real progress is made.

In an official Statement to mark the day, United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan recognised the impact HIV/AIDS has had on the world throughout its relatively short time span by stating: “It has inflicted the single greatest reversal in the history of human development. In other words, it has become the greatest challenge of our generation. “

Focusing on this year’s theme and relating it to those groups most at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, Dr Annan went on to say that accountability “requires every President and Prime Minister, every parliamentarian and politician, to decide and declare that ‘AIDS stops with me’. It requires them to strengthen protection for all vulnerable groups …to work hand in hand with civil society groups, who are so crucial to the struggle.

But accountability applies not only to those who hold positions of power. It also applies to all of us…it requires every one of us to help bring AIDS out of the shadows, and spread the message that silence is death. “ FIP shares the vision expressed by Dr Annan and embodied in the solidarity of action of World AIDS Day events. Through individual investigative work on the rise of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and via collaborative, multi-disciplinary initiatives shared amongst fellow health care professionals, FIP strongly supports concerted efforts in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, and commends the principles set out by UNAIDS and the ongoing theme of World Health Day.