Saturday, December 1, 2007
World AIDS Day
On December 1st every year, we commemorate World AIDS Day, taking the time to reflect upon the progress being made in treatment, education, and community awareness about the AIDS pandemic and pausing to remember those whose lives the disease has already claimed. In 2007, there is some good news: the number of people living with AIDS has leveled off. But there there is no cause for resting on our laurels.
Around the world 33.2 million people live with HIV, adjusted downward from the 2006 estimate on the basis of UNAID's more accurate methods of tracking infections. Two-thirds of those who live with HIV, 22.5 million people, are in sub-Saharan Africa. And 1.7 of the 2.5 million HIV infections in 2007, or 68%, occurred in Africa. In Africa, AIDS is the primary cause of death.
Although the pandemic in Africa dwarfs the crisis in the United States, complacency here is dangerous, especially for the African American community. Washington, DC has the nation's highest HIV-infection rate, with numbers that continue to grow. (See Newsweek article.)
"Leadership" is the focus of World AIDS Day this year, and the leadership of African American spiritual communities is still needed for the dissemination of information and care. Are we better at understanding and addressing the issues associated with AIDS than we were 25 years ago? Yes. Have we arrived at the place of knowledge and comfort that will save lives? Not yet.
There are hopeful signs, sometimes in unexpected places. Much coverage has been given to the AIDS summit organized at Saddleback Church in California. Rick Warren, prompted by his wife Kay, has taken on the issue of AIDS in a way that I hope will inspire at least a few of the people who have looked to him for leadership through his mega-sellers The Purpose-Driven Church and the Purpose-Driven Life. And of course there is the ongoing work of Balm in Gilead, which for 18 years has been providing leadership to the African American and other African diaspora faith communities.
For more information about the worldwide AIDS pandemic, see http://www.unaids.org/en/