Daring to dream of an AIDS-free world

December 1 is World AIDS Day.  This week’s guest blog is written by Beth Good, Health Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee.

Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation

This is the theme for World AIDS Day put out by UNAIDS — but what does that really mean?  “Shared responsibility” sounds great!  My understanding of this phrase means we are all sharing the load, so that no one has to carry the responsibility alone.  Yet, when we look at the statistics, the burden of HIV & AIDS continues to be borne within communities that are already carrying the burden of poverty as well.  While those of us from wealthier countries may be growing weary of hearing about the AIDS pandemic, over 35 million people are growing weary of living with the disease.

World AIDS Day logoThe good news is that there is a 33 percent decrease of new infections since 2001.  More good news is that access to antiretroviral therapy (a drug regime that reduces symptoms and rates of infection) has increased dramatically.  On a more sobering note, globally,  less than half of those needing treatment are able to access this therapy.  Moreover, the one in three women who experience intimate partner violence are 50 percent more likely to acquire HIV.

As I reflect on where we are globally in addressing HIV & AIDS, I relate it to the position of a person who has been able to swim nearly half the distance of a large lake (or more like an ocean in this case). This individual is so very tired and there is still such a great distance to travel…should she turn around and head back?  Most of us would say that it would be crazy to return once you have come so far!  There has been a 52 percent drop in new infections in children, a 40 percent increase in the number of people accessing antiretroviral therapy, a 29 percent decrease in AIDS related deaths of adults and children.

Dinah John and Angel Mathew (left to right) are part of an intergenerational team of women learning and sharing information about HIV and AIDS in Arusha, Tanzania. MCC photo by Nina Linton
Dinah John and Angel Mathew (left to right) are part of an intergenerational team of women learning and sharing information about HIV and AIDS in Arusha, Tanzania. MCC photo by Nina Linton

MCC partners with organizations in 27 countries who are continuing to share the responsibility of ending HIV & AIDS. They work in areas of prevention of new infections, treatment for those living with HIV, and supporting orphaned and vulnerable children.  On a recent trip to Nigeria, I was able to meet an amazing young woman who was assisted through our partner Faith Alive Clinic, in the city of Jos. Beatrice Odekhia attended a sewing course at Faith Alive to assist with the family’s income. Despite the lack of encouragement from her friends and family, she successfully completed the training and I met her at her shop where she sews custom-made clothing.  Beatrice now has a successful business and is teaching others to sew and manage a tailoring business as a way to express her gratitude to God.

So, let’s do this!  It is still difficult and we are weary — especially those who are living with HIV. But, like Beatrice, we need to continue to press on. This can be the legacy of this generation: that we were able to see the end of a disease that has ravaged millions around the world.

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