Take a moment to read this and thank ALLAH for your health, and pray for those who don’t
BEIJING (Reuters) – The world’s two most populous nations promised on Wednesday to eradicate ignorance about AIDS, a disease that was at first dismissed by many as a Western evil confined to drug users, homosexuals and prostitutes.
In the world’s poorest continent, Africa, where the epidemic has ripped huge holes in the social and economic fabric, thousands staged rallies to mark World AIDS Day and Botswana’s president called on his stricken people to “Abstain or Die.”
The World Health Organization estimates there are 25.4 million HIV sufferers in sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of the global total in a region with 10 percent of the world’s population.
Activists and governments around the world marked the day with events drawing attention to the disease and promoting its eradication.
China, criticized for its slow initial response to HIV/AIDS, put on a public display of commitment to fighting a disease the United Nations fears could infect 10 million Chinese by 2010.
In India, where over five million people have already been infected with HIV, the government said it would make greater efforts to promote awareness, especially in rural areas and among the young.
“The world can no longer afford to ignore the enormity of the HIV epidemic,” Antonio Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told an assembly in Beijing.
“The time has come to strike back at a killer that is transmitted by drug use and sex, as well as by ignorance and denial,” he said before an audience waving large styrofoam red ribbons, that have come to symbolize the fight against AIDS.
In South Africa, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town used AIDS Day to criticize the government, which activists have long accused of moving too slowly against a disease that affects one in nine of the population.
“With regard to our government’s endless stalling, I am at a loss,” Ndungane said in a speech for delivery at an AIDS rally.
Vice President Jacob Zuma, speaking at another AIDS rally, turned the problem round and said South Africans themselves must take responsibility. “If everybody takes the messages of abstention, faithfulness or condom use seriously, we can achieve our goal of drastically reducing the rate of infections.”
Veteran politician Mangosuthu Buthelezi urged congregants at a Cape Town cathedral to break down the stigma of AIDS — which has claimed two of his children. “AIDS is decimating our people, tearing apart our families, uprooting our communities,” he said.
In badly hit countries such as Botswana, Swaziland and Zambia, AIDS deaths are robbing economies of workers, families of breadwinners and cutting average life expectancy by decades.
Botswana President Festus Mogae told the BBC 37 percent of Botswanans were infected with HIV. “We don’t seem to be getting on top of it,” he said bleakly. “We have to say things like ‘abstain or die’.”
In Nigeria, Lt Commander Nsikak Ekpe, the head of an AIDS NGO, said poverty and lack of access to information were hampering the fight against AIDS in Africa’s most populous country.
On the giant Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, the head of the local Catholic Church outraged activists by saying condoms had helped spread the deadly virus by encouraging promiscuity.
“Condoms do not work. They do not stop the virus getting through,” Cardinal Gaetan Razafindatrandraare said in a speech the government had invited him to make. “In fact, they are encouraging young people to behave in a promiscuous manner.”
Local activists were disgusted. “The cardinal was wrong to say this in public. He has no right to misinform people in this way,” said Lalaina Raholiarimanga, Madagascar program coordinator for the UK-based charity Aids Alliance.
There were few public events in western and eastern Africa, where speaking publicly about AIDS remains largely taboo.
In Uganda, once seen as the epicenter of the disease, an energetic government education campaign has seen infection rates drop from 30 percent in the early 1990s to six percent today.
Activists said attitudes toward women and gays were hampering efforts to fight the disease.
In Cambodia, straying husbands are accused of spreading AIDS among women and girls. “I would like to send a message to those unfaithful husbands not to bring AIDS home to kill your innocent wife,” said national AIDS chief Dr Tia Phalla.
But in Thailand, where a mass public awareness campaign in the 1990s has been credited with sharply reducing the number of new HIV infections, youngsters paraded through shopping centers dressed as condoms to distribute condoms to other teenagers.
In neighboring Vietnam, with an estimated 85,000 HIV cases, Health Minister Tran Thi Trung Chien said a stigma remained and in conservative Singapore activists said antiquated laws banning gay sex were hurting the fight against AIDS.
In countries like Pakistan information about HIV/AIDS is scant and even the government has little idea how many people are infected.
It has been more than 20 years since the world first learned about HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), but, sadly, the epidemic is still raging in many parts of the world. That is one reason why groups in many nations, mark December 1st as World AIDS Day.
World AIDS day began in 1988. The goal of World AIDS Day is to increase awareness about the disease in the hope of stopping its spread and gaining funding to help find a vaccine or cure. The need for such a medical miracle is stronger today than many realize.
Around the world, there are 42 million people with AIDS, including three million children. Five million new HIV infections were diagnosed last year alone. In Africa, AIDS has reached epidemic proportions, and China, Russia, India, and Indonesia are seeing a sharp rise in the number of cases diagnosed each year
The Red Ribbon is an international symbol of AIDS awareness that is worn by people all year round and particularly around world AIDS day to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remind others of the need for their support and commitment.
The red ribbon started as a “grass roots” effort, and as a result there is no official red ribbon, and many people make their own. To make your own ribbons, get some ordinary red ribbon, about 1.5 cms wide and cut it into strips about 15 cms long. Then fold at the top into an inverted “V” shape and put a safety pin through the centre which you use to attach the ribbon to your clothing.
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