Standard Chartered Bank is marking World AIDS Day today December 1, by urging communities to focus on education and testing to combat further spread of the killer virus, which remains one of the greatest global health challenges. There is growing evidence that prevention programmes are working, with the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS this month reporting a 17 per cent decline in new infections globally over the past 8 years. Since 2001, new infections have declined 15 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, 25 per cent in East Asia and 10 per cent in South and South East Asia. However, prevalence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is on the rise.
Whilst the latest findings are encouraging, the rate of new infections is still very high and has increased since 2007, from 6,800 to 7,400 per day. In the absence of a cure or vaccine, education remains key to tackling the spread of the virus, by providing people with the facts to make safe lifestyle choices.
Around 33.4 million people are living with HIV, and this increase (compared to 33.2 million in 2007) can be attributed to continued high levels of new infection as well as the beneficial impact of improved access to Anti-retroviral treatment. Whilst it is good news that less people are dying from AIDS related illnesses (5,500 daily, compared to 5,700 in 2007), for every two people treated, five people become newly infected.
Morie Fofana, Lead HIV Champion Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone said, “Too many people are still reluctant about getting tested for HIV. We believe that everyone should know their status. In the absence of a cure or vaccine, the only hope of tackling HIV is to educate people on how to avoid contracting the virus in the first place – or passing it on if they are HIV positive.”
The Bank has made a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to reach one million people with education on HIV and AIDS by March 2010. So far, pledges are in place to reach over 800,000 people across 50 countries. This volunteer-driven programme, called Living with HIV, uses educational materials that are available free of charge from the Bank.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.