A red ribbon day
Today is World AIDS Day. Millions of Americans' lives have somehow been touched by AIDS. Our family lost a dear friend to the disease in the '90s. Years ago I, like many , was required to get a negative AIDS test for a new insurance policy. And some of the money we paid in taxes has been spent to battle this sad and scary epidemic now devastating Africa.
Bush marks World AIDS Day at church that supports children orphaned by the disease," is the headline in yesterday's International Herald Tribune. The article begins:
President George W. Bush urged Congress to approve an additional $30 billion (€20 billion) for the global fight against AIDS over the next five years, and announced he would visit Africa early next year to further highlight the need and his administration's efforts.
"We dedicate ourselves to a great purpose: We will turn the tide against HIV/AIDS — once and for all," Bush said Friday, the day before World AIDS Day. "I look forward to seeing the results of America's generosity."
. . . In honor of Saturday's World AIDS Day, the White House hung a red ribbon — 28 feet (8.5 meters) tall and 8 feet (2.5 meters) wide — in the North Portico of the mansion to symbolize the fight against AIDS. It will stay up for two days and, on Saturday, guests who visit the White House will receive a red ribbon sticker and a fact card.
The article concludes with another side to the story, that perhaps the administration of our current president (OCP), has not been very effective. To quote further from the IHT story:
Forty protesters, including students, HIV-positive activists and health advocates, were arrested Friday after they sat down on the sidewalk in front of the White House and refused police orders to move, said Lt. Scott Fear of the U.S. Park Police.
Demonstrators said the Bush administration's response to the spread of AIDS has been ineffective. They called for increased funding and an end to abstinence-only sex education requirements for U.S.-funded HIV and AIDS programs internationally. They said the disease also has been largely ignored in the nation's capital, which has the country's worst rate of infection.
"You don't know how to save lives, Mr. President," Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, D.C.'s nonvoting member of Congress, said to cheers from a crowd of more than 150 at a rally before the arrests. "Stop sending mixed messages with the taxpayer funds of the American people.
The truth about AIDS in Africa probably lies somewhere in between these two views. But the statistics are clear. According to AVERT, an international AIDS charity, I quote:
Sub-Saharan Africa is more heavily affected by HIV and AIDS than any other region of the world. An estimated 22.5 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2007 and approximately 1.7 million additional people were infected with HIV during that year. In just the past year, the AIDS epidemic in Africa has claimed the lives of an estimated 1.6 million people in this region. More than eleven million children have been orphaned by AIDS.
The extent of the AIDS crisis is only now becoming clear in many African countries, as increasing numbers of people with HIV are becoming ill. In the absence of massively expanded prevention, treatment and care efforts, it is expected that the AIDS death toll in sub-Saharan Africa will continue to rise. This means that impact of the AIDS epidemic on these societies will be felt most strongly in the course of the next ten years and beyond. Its social and economic consequences are already widely felt, not only in the health sector but also in education, industry, agriculture, transport, human resources and the economy in general.
What can we as individuals do? I do not post at DailyKos very often, but today I did and closed with this:
Much as we hate to give credit to OCP, is should be noted that his commitment to helping fight the AIDS epidemic has been considerable.
The AIDS virus knows no party lines, no geographical borders, no gender preferences, no time-limited scope.
Just for today give it a thought, "send white light" to its victims, and get tested if there is any question in your mind about your own status.
(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)