People from all walks of life across the world over the weekend commemorated the World AIDS Day. Since inception in 1988, the day has been dedicated to raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. The Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done. It also provides an opportunity for us all - individuals, communities and political leaders - to take action and ensure that human rights are protected and global targets for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care are met.
According to UNAIDS estimates, there are over 33.4 million people living with HIV, including 2.1 million children; on an annual basis some 2.7 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 2 million people die from AIDS. The estimate further stated that around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35.2.
However, even though world leaders have pledged to work towards universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care and the fact that valuable progress has been made in increasing access to HIV and AIDS services, yet greater commitment is needed around the world if the goal of universal access is to be achieved. Millions of people continue to be infected with HIV every year. In low and middle-income countries, less than half of those in need of antiretroviral therapy are receiving it, and too many do not have access to adequate care services.
In The Gambia, we are blessed to be among the countries where HIV infection rate is minimal. Our health statistics show that ninety-eight percent of the populace is HIV/AIDS-free. The success story can be alluded to the fact that the vigorous campaign against HIV/ AIDS mounted by anti-AIDS societies have succeeded in filtering the message of prevention to the people.
We should always remember that AIDS devastates families and cripples the very fabric of a nation's economy; we must therefore never give it space in our society.As we commemorate the day, we should endeavour to continue the good initiatives so that the two percent of the population infected with the disease can be further reduced. We also hope that countries that have fallen victims to the calamities of AIDS will soon acquire solutions to the epidemic.