World AIDS Day yesterday brought some sobering statistics, but also a glimmer of hope for the future treatment of the deadly disease.
Almost a quarter of a century after it was first recognized, AIDS is killing people faster than it ever has before.
An estimated 3.1 million people died worldwide from AIDS last year, almost one-eighth of the total deaths from the disease over the past 24 years.
What’s more, there are an estimated 40.3 million people – more than the total populations of Canada and New Zealand combined – infected worldwide with HIV or AIDS. That figure includes 2.3 million children.
Closer to home, there are approximately 300,000 people in the Caribbean infected with HIV/AIDS, with about 10 per cent of them children. Some 24,000 people in the Caribbean died of AIDS last year.
While those statistics are frightening, there is some reason for hope. The United Nations stated that prevention efforts seem to be working, with infection rates beginning to decline in places like Kenya, Zimbabwe and several Caribbean countries, including Barbados and the Bahamas.
But the world has a long way to go to contain the disease.
Only an estimated 10 per cent of people with HIV worldwide have been tested and know they have disease.
And despite progress in some countries, AIDS epidemics continue to expand in other African countries, and in places like Eastern Europe and parts of Asia.
It is good that there is a World AIDS Day to focus attention on the disease. But AIDS awareness needs to be a year-round effort if the disease is to be beaten.
In his World AIDS message, Minister of Health Anthony Eden noted that 36 residents of the Cayman Islands are known to have HIV/AIDS. He also said we are fortunate that no one has died of the disease here in the last two years.
Mr. Eden called on all residents to work together to keep AIDS at a minimum here while scientists the world over try to eradicate it.
Many readers probably saw people wearing red ribbons yesterday as a sign of support for people living with HIV, and as a symbol of hope for the future.
We must not forget the need to keep the AIDS battle in our minds, and in the minds of our children, even if the subject isn’t in the press every day.