Wednesday, December 1 marks World AIDS Day, an opportunity to increase awareness of the disease and of the 33.4 million people living with it today.
Now in its twenty-second year, World AIDS Day is a global effort to educate people about HIV/AIDS, urge prevention, and remember the more than 25 million people who have died of AIDS since cases of it were first reported in 1981.
AIDS afflicts people in every region of the world, but 97 percent of those with HIV—the virus that causes AIDS—live in low- and middle-income countries. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest concentration of people with HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 22.4 million people infected.
Most people who live with or are at risk for HIV are in poor countries and have no access to prevention, care, or treatment, according to the World Health Organization.
Glimmers of Hope
Despite the grim statistics, some progress has been made in the last decade. In 33 countries, 22 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV incidence has dropped by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to the UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2010.
The report’s authors write that “positive behavior change can alter the course of the epidemic, while stigma and discrimination, lack of access to services, and bad laws can make epidemics worse.”
Another potentially positive development for worldwide efforts to prevent AIDS recently came from the Vatican. In Pope Benedict XVI’s book “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” excerpted on November 20 in the Vatican newspaper, the Pope stated that in special cases condom use might be justified as a first step toward taking moral responsibility for one’s actions.
AIDS, SOS, and Children
In 2010, an estimated 15 million of the world’s 25 million children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. SOS Children’s Villages, which raises AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children in 132 countries, is active across sub-Saharan Africa. SOS is committed to maintaining supportive and healthy environments that reduce the vulnerability of children and their caregivers to HIV infection. SOS also has longstanding programs to educate local families about HIV prevention and the need for families and communities to support children directly or indirectly affected by AIDS.
Read AIDS orphan statistics from SOS Children’s Villages to learn more about how the spread of HIV and AIDS has affected children around the world.