There were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS in 2010, the most recent statistics available from Avert, an international HIV and AIDS charity. About 1.8 million of those people died from AIDS that year. Here in the United States there are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and about 20 percent of them are unaware they even have the disease.
Those are sobering statistics, to be sure. Here’s another one: Over the last 30 years AIDS has killed more than 25 million people around the world, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history.
As part of an international effort to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and to recognize the efforts of those working to fight it, countries around the globe will observe World AIDS Day this weekend. Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day, and governments of other nations have followed suit with issued similar announcements.
World AIDS Day actually falls on Dec. 1 every year, but here in Brattleboro it will be observed a day earlier. The AIDS Project of Southern Vermont will commemorate World AIDS Day today from noon to 1 p.m. at the River Garden in Brattleboro. The event will open with a 10-minute candlelight vigil on the sidewalk, followed by a short program of local and international speakers, music by songwriter and musician Damaris, and the donation of a quilt for a person living with HIV/AIDS handmade by local residents.
Speaking of quilts, the 2012 World AIDS Day Community Friendship Quilt is on displayed in the Wilmington Town Office window from Nov. 26 to Dec. 3.
Despite ongoing challenges across the world, there is good news to share on this World AIDS Day: the area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children, according to the AIDS Project. Half of the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children.
Antiretroviral therapy has emerged as a powerful force for saving lives. In the last 24 months the number of people accessing treatment has increased by 63 percent globally. In addition, countries are increasing investments in the AIDS response despite a difficult economic climate.
The work being done by the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont, which this year celebrated 25 years of serving the local community, is part of that global effort. Direct services to community members living with HIV/AIDS in Windham and Bennington counties include medical case management, transportation and a comprehensive food program in partnership with the Vermont Foodbank, members of area faith communities, Amy’s Bakery Arts Café, and customers of the Brattleboro Food Co-op. The AIDS Project also offers HIV prevention efforts in Windham County for those at highest risk.
The entire community is invited to today’s events at the River Garden to honor those affected by HIV/AIDS and those who work to combat AIDS worldwide, including the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont.