General Articles

Statement of Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., President of SIECUS on World AIDS Day

New York, NYTomorrow is World AIDS Day.  This day serves not only as an opportunity for us to grieve the loss of those who have succumbed to this terrible disease over the past year, but also as a chance to evaluate the successes and failures our HIV/AIDS community has made in fighting the spread of AIDS.  While there has been real and tangible progress in the struggle, we still have a long way to go.

According to the UNAIDS 2007 AIDS Epidemic Update, there are more than 33 million people infected by the HIV virus living in the world today.  In 2007 alone, there were more than 2.5 million new HIV infections, and more than 2 million deaths caused by AIDS in the world.  Startlingly, the same report from the UN described the United States as having one of the highest numbers of HIV infections in the world.  Perhaps most disturbingly, HIV infections are extremely prevalent among African Americans and Latinos in America, who, though they make up only one quarter of the population, represent almost two thirds of new HIV infections each year.

These staggering numbers do not mean that there is no progress being made, however.  Internationally, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has provided unparalleled resources to combat the spread of AIDS and to provide treatment for those affected by AIDS and HIV.  At the same time, funding for PEPFAR is overly restrictive, with a wholly insufficient percentage of money going into prevention efforts, and much of that money being forced into programs that teach abstinence as the only way to prevent the spread of HIV.  PEPFAR funds would be much better spent on teaching people in countries ravaged by HIV and AIDS not just abstinence, but how to protect themselves by using condoms and practicing other safer sexual behaviors.

Domestically, we are pleased that so many politicians, including nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates, have shown support for the Early Treatment for HIV Act, funding of comprehensive sexuality education instead of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs at home and abroad, and lifting the ban on needle exchange programs.  We hope that all of the candidates who have not yet endorsed these ideas, regardless of political party, will soon join them.

In the coming year, we, as a community, hope to build on the successes from the past.  We look to the workers on the ground across the globe and here at home for inspiration, and we draw strength from the countless millions across the world living with determined courage with HIV and AIDS.