Achieving ‘zero AIDS related death, zero discrimination, and zero new infections’, the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, is ambitious but not impossible said Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma.
Marking World AIDS Day, on 1 December 2011, at Marlborough House in London, Mr Sharma said the epidemic is halting and being reversed in many regions of the world, according to the UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2010.
Incidences of HIV have decreased in the past decade by 25 per cent or more in 33 countries – 12 of which are Commonwealth members.
“With renewed global commitment we can make progress towards achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goal targets on HIV/AIDS,” he said.
Mr Sharma added that the Commonwealth was focused on achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care.
Despite the improvements, the Secretary-General acknowledged that 7,000 people worldwide are still being infected with HIV every day, 1,000 of them children.
Dr Mark Richmond, Director of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development and Global Co-ordinator for HIV and AIDS at UNESCO, highlighted the importance of sexuality education in fighting the spread of the epidemic.
Effective sexuality education is important because of the impact of cultural values and religious beliefs on young people especially in their understanding of their relationships with others.
He said with young people accounting for two in five of all new adult HIV infections worldwide, comprehensive sexuality education is a vital platform for HIV prevention.
Dr Richmond also urged the use of culture, as a tool for sexuality education and awareness.
The Commonwealth also used World AIDS Day to draw attention to the plight of carers, often women and girls, who have little choice but to look after their loved ones, with the screening of the documentary ‘Who Cares? The Economics of Dignity’.
“For World AIDS Day 2011 we say 'well done’ to carers, we applaud their unrelenting dedication to caring for loved ones and for providing that hope, that dignity to persons living with HIV," said Dr Sylvia Anie, Director of the Social Transformation Programmes Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat.