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Published on November 22, 2010 | by Online Editor     Photography by

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World AIDS Day gets its voice

JJ DE BELEN-

AIDS, according to the Journal of Internal Medicine, is the first postmodern pandemic, with over 33 million people worldwide infected with HIV/AIDS,

Photograph by Emily Carson

Photograph by Emily Carson

60,000 of them being Canadian.

World AIDS Day is December 1, and was first celebrated in 1987, when the international community started to see how the disease was affecting not just the sick and their families, but everyone. This day is dedicated to HIV/AIDS awareness through events all around the globe. The day also remembers those who have passed away as a result  of complications from HIV/AIDS and to demand the political leadership take up the cause.

Countless HIV/AIDS and international organizations have rallied together to make World AIDS Day an informative success, with events being set up in cities and towns all over the world, some of the largest being in  New York, London, Washington DC and Toronto.

But for all the awareness, many activists feel world leaders have not done enough.

“For years we’ve been promised a vaccine, or universal access to medications,” stated Sydney Hushie, a program manager for the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS based in Ghana.

“International AIDS Society and world leaders pledged to implement and achieve universal access to HIV prevention by 2010; they lied.”  Hushie says the only way to retard this epidemic is to rapidly scale up prevention measures that have been proven effective and to hold leaders accountable.

World AIDS Day remains a quiet day to many students, a number of whom indicated they weren’t aware of what the issue was.

Fourth-year Humber nursing student Janet Park admits that she should be aware of the day’s events, especially since her program is health care-based. “I have empathy towards the cause,” she said. “But I’d say the majority of people in my [nursing] program just don’t have the time to take part.” Students from a myriad of post-secondary institutions are all unaware of when World AIDS Day is, and if there are any events happening in Toronto All of them attribute their lack of information to a lack of publicity.

In North America, only 40 per cent of young adults have accurate knowledge of HIV/AIDS. Heterosexual youth (under 30) account for the majority of new infections in North America and around the world. Abstract statistics, however,  do not give the human aspect HIV/AIDS, activists say.

Peter Piot of the International AIDS Society said, “AIDS continues to tear apart families and communities, leaving behind 15 million orphans and robbing countries of their future.”

AIDS has been present throughout most students’ whole lives and many are unaware that based on epidemiological trends of HIV/AIDS around the world, there is no indication of the pandemic stopping any time soon.

Gagan Bath, a third-year GH media studies student helped with last year’s GH event for World AIDS Day. She said 21st century youth apathy has to be fought – “Being jaded is so 2002, let’s make activism the new thing.”

After 28 years no AIDS vaccine has been produced, notes the international AIDS community. That community has stated there is an obvious market for it, a demand and a plethora of funding available. Activists like Piot believe there is a moral obligation to eradicate a global problem that acts as a plague.

It would not be the first time a vaccine has been created to slow or halt illnesses: polio, measles, mumps, even chickenpox, formerly serious problems, are widely vaccinated for now.

World AIDS Day organizers have annually urged that while the science develops, individuals as part of a community and as members of society need to take a stand.

Health professionals urge people to get tested and know their status as one thing everyone can do to fight the spread of HIV.

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