Sunday, November 30, 2008

World AIDS Day

December 1, 1994: A nostalgic visit to our Maryland hometown began with a dear friend in Washington DC. That first night, Bret and I took a late night spin past our favorite DC haunts. Traveling down Pennsylvania Avenue, we noticed a small crowd carrying candles in front of the White House. Not a remarkable DC sight on its own until we noticed a sign proclaiming World AIDS Day. Bret and I paused a moment then continued our journey down memory lane. The irony of that sighting wasn’t lost on us. We knew this would be Bret’s last visit to his beloved east coast. Five months later, AIDS took his life.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the day designated for individuals and organizations from around the world to come together to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic. World AIDS Day elicited hope even in 1994, if not directly for Bret, for those to come after him. In the 14 years since, hope became a reality for many living with HIV and those committed to preventing it through awareness, education, sustained prevention programs, expansion of voluntary HIV testing and counseling, improved drug therapies and accessibility.

Hope extends and improves the quality of life for those with continuous access to antiretroviral drugs but at an extremely high cost. Drug regimens and medical insurance (if qualified) remain pricey, stigma associated with the disease too often results in harassment and continues to be an unspoken factor in job and housing discrimination. The overall number of people living with HIV continues to increase in most regions of the world and we must remain committed to the ultimate goal of universal access to prevention, treatment and care while diligently pursuing a cure.

The 2008 World AIDS Day theme is “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise”, a reminder to UN signers of the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS to take the lead and keep their commitment to apply global action to the global crisis of AIDS. 15 years ago I made my own promise of commitment to address the AIDS crisis. This year, I’m recommitted to keep it and invite you to commemorate World AIDS Day by reflecting on your personal level of commitment to end the crisis --- learn the facts, read their stories and share your own.

Make the promise, keep the promise...until there’s a cure.

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