December 1 marked the 29th annual World AIDS Day. Since its inception in 1988, World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people around the world to raise awareness about HIV / AIDS, to support those living with HIV, and to remember those who have succumbed to the disease. The idea for the annual day began with James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, who in 1987, worked for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Each year around the world, government and AIDS service organizations collaborate to sponsor and coordinate a series of events to bring attention to the pandemic. In previous years, local events have included HIV testing at area universities and other venues, commemorative services at houses of worship, and fundraising concerts and auctions.
According to 2012 statistics from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, a cumulative total of 32,904 persons have been reported with HIV infection in Louisiana, including 333 children. The cumulative number of deaths among persons diagnosed with HIV/AIDS is 14,057. As of September 30, 2012, 18,493 persons are living with HIV infection in Louisiana; of these, 10,123 have an AIDS diagnosis. Statewide, 29% of new HIV diagnoses and 28% of new AIDS diagnoses are among women. HIV continues to disproportionately affect African Americans in Louisiana. In 2011, 74% of persons newly diagnosed with HIV and 76% of persons newly diagnosed with AIDS were African American. Worldwide, 34 million people are living with HIV infection.
The 2017 theme of World AIDS Day is “My Health, My Right.” According to www.unaids.org, the theme focuses on the right to health and explores the challenges people around the world face in exercising their rights.
“All people, regardless of their age, gender, where they live or who they love, have the right to health,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “No matter what their health needs are, everyone requires health solutions that are available and accessible, free from discrimination and of good quality.”
The right to health is enshrined in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This includes the right of everyone to the prevention and treatment of ill health, to make decisions about one’s own health and to be treated with respect and dignity.
The campaign reminds people that the right to health is much more than access to quality health services and medicines, that it also depends on a range of important assurances including, adequate sanitation and housing, healthy working conditions, a clean environment and access to justice.
If a person’s right to health is compromised, they are often unable to effectively prevent disease and ill health, including HIV, or to gain access to treatment and care. The most marginalized people in society, including sex workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, people in prisons and migrants, are often the least able to access their right to health; they
are also the most vulnerable to HIV.
Most of the Sustainable Development Goals are linked in some way to health. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030, will depend heavily on ensuring the right to health for all.