The theme for 2011 World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero”. A theme that is appropriate as it urges everyone to join in the fight against HIV and AIDS to ensure that we get to ZERO — Zero new infections; Zero discrimination; Zero AIDS related deaths.
Since the discovery of this deadly virus (30 years ago), significant strides have been made by Governments, Non-Governmental Organizations, faith-based organizations, health professionals, and community groups, among others, to reduce the incidence and prevalence rates of HIV and AIDS.
However, despite the laudable improvements made in fighting the disease, there are still too many people affected, and continue to be affected, by HIV and AIDS. World leaders and organizations are diligently working in collective action and interventions and we, as young people, must join in the efforts – stand up and be counted – make our mark – in fighting this deadly disease, thereby, assisting in “Getting to Zero”.
Statistics reveal that since 2009, there have been increasing numbers of new infections among youth between the ages of 15 -24 years. Throughout the world, as a result of this pandemic, economic expectations and social development have faltered significantly. Further, the social fiber in many countries – the family and relationships — has been emaciated by this ailment. HIV and AIDS contribute to a wide range of social problems that undermine the very essence of a person’s wellbeing; health, ability to earn, and live a meaningful life without stigma, and having their human rights violated.
“Getting to Zero” is neither a difficult nor a daunting task. It is certainly attainable if we ALL take responsibility for our actions. I make a clarion call to Governments, Organizations, and Health Care facilities to provide the modalities necessary to achieve that goal – financial resources and commitment to finding a cure; quality health-care service and delivery, and above all, understanding and compassion for people affected by HIV and AIDS.
Why are we permitting HIV and AIDS to erode the fiber of our societies?
Why are we allowing HIV and AIDS to take such a toll of the lives of our families, our friends, and our neighbors?
The key to the theme of the message – “Getting to Zero” — is PREVENTION.
I implore on all youth to join in the fight against this inveterate ailment. Let us play a pivotal role in “Getting to ’Zero” by capitalizing on information and resources that would enable us to protect ourselves against HIV, and its many risk factors. Let us stop the discrimination and stigmatization of people thus affected, by remembering that HIV and AIDS have no specific face, respect no geographical boundaries, and are oblivious of age, intellectual or social status, or ethnicity.
Let us collectively aim, with zeal and determination, efficient strategizing and organizing and, above all, respect for ourselves and others, at “GETTING to ZERO” the incidence and prevalence rates of HIV and AIDS in our country, in our region and in the world.
ZERO IT IS! ZERO IT IS!! ZERO IT IS!!!
Shireene Judy Jude McMillan
Commonwealth Caribbean Regional Youth Caucus Chair
Chair Responsible for Health and Wellbeing.