Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Thirty years ago, we didn’t know what caused AIDS. There was no specific laboratory test to diagnose the condition. And there was little that medicine could offer beyond struggling to treat the myriad, and gruesome, infectious and malignant consequences resulting from the profound immunodeficiency associated with this mysterious new disease. Is it any wonder that fear and ignorance flourished in a climate of such profound uncertainty?
But I can also report that that same climate of uncertainty and dread also bred caring of the highest degree, strong-fisted resolve and relentless action that has helped bring us to where we are today. True, our work toward finding a vaccine and a functional cure for HIV has not concluded, but the prevention and treatment options available to community and clinical providers in this fourth decade of the epidemic could hardly have been imagined in the early 1980s. That’s the good news. But there are also reasons to be circumspect.
Increases in new HIV infections among young gay men, along with recent HIV outbreaks among people who inject drugs remind us that our victory over HIV/AIDS is not a given. Whether it’s HIV infection or some other threat to our nation’s wellbeing, we must remember that achieving health is a continual process, not a destination. Our experience with the resurgence of tuberculosis in the U.S. in the latter part of the twentieth century is a cautionary example of what happens when we let down our guard, stepping back from public health efforts because we think that we’ve licked a disease. We must be very careful to avoid that same pitfall when it comes to our efforts to achieve an AIDS-free generation.
Caveats notwithstanding, all of us anticipate that science will continue to bring to fruition potent new tools to advance our work in HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment. We trust that ongoing research will continue to move forward, delivering positive results in the form of vaginal and rectal microbicides, evidence-based operational strategies to improve HIV care outcomes and that pinnacle of success, a vaccine that’s effective in preventing the acquisition of HIV. But at the same time that we put our faith in the ability of science and technology to advance our fight against HIV/AIDS, it’s critical that we remember and act upon those principles that have carried us forward from the earliest and darkest days of the epidemic.
In our efforts to prevent HIV transmission and improve the care of persons living with HIV we must keep foremost in mind that we are not merely dealing with the interplay between a retrovirus and an individual’s immune system; it’s a much more nuanced interaction. Understanding and addressing the relevant social, economic and environmental circumstances of our client’s lives is as important today as it was back in 1981. And while as a nation we may have moved beyond the more blatant, headline-grabbing forms of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV in that first decade of the epidemic, we must continue to confront HIV-related stigma whenever and wherever we encounter it. Finally– and this is a lesson that we should never forget–we are stronger and more effective when we can work together, building bridges across programs, disciplines and perspectives. The fact that biomedical science has tremendously advanced our ability to counter this epidemic should never be misinterpreted to mean that other components of a comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS are no longer necessary. Strong leadership, community mobilization, a shared vision of success and an unwavering commitment to empowering our most vulnerable populations must always be at the heart of our work to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic here in the U.S. and abroad.
Monday, November 9, 2015
Friday, November 6, 2015
Making progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS
For the first time since the start of the epidemic, an AIDS-free generation is within reach. UNICEF's efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV have made significant progress, with 67% of pregnant women in countries with the highest rate of infection receiving services in 2013. UNICEF-supported prevention programs have also helped reduce new infections among adolescents, but more needs to be done to break the cycle. UNICEF remains committed to a multifaceted approach of prevention, treatment, protection, care and support for children and adolescents who are most at risk.
Great Progress, Great Need
According to UNICEF’s A Promise Renewed report, the deaths of children under 5 worldwide have been cut by more than half since 1990. This is one of the greatest global success stories in the last 25 years. In partnership with UNICEF, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) played a leading role in reducing child deaths by increasing access to lifesaving vaccines, quality nutrition, and other cost-effective interventions.
Despite the incredible progress made,
- 16,000 children still die every day -- mostly from preventable and treatable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria;
- Nearly 300,000 women die annually due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth;
- Malnutrition contributes to approximately 45% of deaths among children under 5.
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