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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WORLD AIDS DAY 2007. Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

World AIDS Day is a day when people from around the world come together within a single effort. This year, the global theme of World AIDS Day is leadership within the slogan Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

The annual UNAIDS/WHO 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update, reports on the latest developments in the global AIDS epidemic, providing the most recent estimates of the epidemic's scope and human toll and explores new trends in the epidemic's evolution.

According to the report 39.5 million people are now living with HIV. There were 4.3 million new infections in 2006 with 2.8 million (65%) of these occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and important increases in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where there are some indications that infection rates have risen by more than 50% since 2004. In 2006, 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

Why the theme of leadership?

Since the beginning of the epidemic, experience has clearly demonstrated that significant advances in the response to HIV have been achieved when there is strong and committed leadership. Leaders are distinguished by their action, innovation and vision; their personal example and engagement of others; and their perseverance in the face of obstacles and challenges. However, leaders are often not those in the highest offices. Leadership must be demonstrated at every level to get ahead of the disease - in families, in communities, in countries and internationally. Much of the best leadership on AIDS has been demonstrated within civil society organisations challenging the status quo. Making leadership the theme of the next two World AIDS Days will help encourage leadership on AIDS within all levels and sectors of society. We hope it will inspire and foster champions within a range of different groups and networks at local and international levels.

Leadership as a theme follows and builds on the 2006 theme of accountability. In 2006 a number of milestones were reached where accountability was particularly crucial. It was the year of the United Nations High Level Meeting on AIDS, which reviewed the progress on the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS - an important blueprint for reaching the Millennium Development Goals on AIDS. 2006 marked the fifth year anniversary of the African Abuja Declaration. 2006 was also the year in which national targets were set, or should have been set, by governments for achieving universal access to prevention, treatment, support and care by 2010. In addition, at 2006's International AIDS Conference, “accountability “ was the buzzword throughout the global forum, reflecting the conference's theme, “Time to Deliver”.

Despite the efforts to hold leaders accountable in 2006, progress in halting HIV is falling far short of targets. Over 25 million people have died of AIDS so far, and 4.3 million people were infected with HIV in 2006. The spread of HIV is accelerating 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 death rates. The G8 leaders must deliver on their commitments to AIDS. In other high level meetings, governments of rich countries promised to increase the spending on development aid to 0.7 percent of their annual budget. Only a handful of countries have done so. In the Abuja Declaration, African leaders committed to allocating 15 percent of their budgets to health. This has happened in just one or two countries, with only one-third of African countries spending over 10 percent. Promises are not being kept because there is a lack of leadership at every level.