Signs Of Hope In Aids Pandemic

In 2015 there were 36.7 million people living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Over three decades, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide. Now there are finally signs of hope for an AIDS-free world.

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[googlefont font=“Cormorant Infant” fontsize=”17″]By Susan Gunn[/googlefont]


Since the beginning of the epidemic in 1981, Maryknoll missioners in Asia, Latin America and Africa have ministered to people living with HIV/AIDS. We have accompanied people dying of AIDS, worked with children orphaned by AIDS, supported women and girls who are at risk of violence or sexual abuse, and witnessed the direct impact of debt and poverty on societies decimated by AIDS.

The United Nations recently adopted a new plan for ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 that includes so-called “90-90-90” targets that need to be reached by 2020: 90 percent of people living with HIV knowing their HIV status; 90 percent of people who know their HIV-positive status on treatment; and 90 percent of people on treatment with suppressed viral loads. All this requires continuing investment in research, medicines and efforts to change behaviors to avoid transmission.

“If we invest just $3 a day for each person living with HIV for the next five years, we would break the epidemic for good,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. “We know that each dollar invested will produce a $15 return.”

According to the latest estimates from UNAIDS: 1.1 million people died of AIDS in 2015, a 45 percent decrease since its peak in 2005. Deaths have declined in part due to increased availability of antiretroviral drugs. Yet, HIV/AIDS remains the number one cause of death in Africa.

There were about 2.1 million new infections in 2015, a significant decline since the mid-1990s.

A growing awareness of the connection between HIV and tuberculosis has led to increased joint HIV/TB services. Between 2004 and 2014 TB deaths in people living with HIV declined by 32 percent.

Women represent half of all adults living with HIV worldwide. It’s the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. Gender inequalities, differential access to service and sexual violence increase women’s vulnerability to HIV.

Globally, there were 1.8 million children living with HIV and 110,000 AIDS-related deaths of children in 2015. Since 2001, new HIV infections among children have declined by more than 70 percent.

The Scriptures show how people of faith should act in the face of the AIDS pandemic. Like the Canaanite woman and tax collector Zacchaeus, those with HIV/AIDS are often “outcasts.” They are paralyzed socially and economically by stigma, discrimination and exclusion. Our societies are also paralyzed when people have inadequate nutrition, national debt restricts access to education and services and trade agreements prevent access to life-saving medicines.

When the disciples urged Jesus to send the Canaanite woman away and the residents of Jericho accused Jesus of staying at the house of a sinner, Jesus demonstrated the Gospel message of inclusion. Who will love the marginalized today? Who will speak for our sisters and brothers who live with HIV/AIDS, for the children who are orphaned?
 

Faith in action:

Join
the World AIDS Day prayer vigil on December 1. World AIDS Day is an opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have died, and celebrate increased access to treatment and services. Sign up for a one-hour time slot during the 24-hour vigil.

Plan
a worship service on World AIDS Day or the weekend before or after. You can find materials at Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.

Read and share
the Maryknoll AIDS Task Force prayer.

Learn more
about World AIDS Day
 

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Phone (202) 832-1780, visit www.maryknollogc.org or email ogc@maryknoll.org.
 

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About the author

Susan Gunn

Susan Gunn is director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.