The Thirty Year War—On AIDS
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS, the disease that claims the lives of 1.8 million people each year and is the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age.
In the last five years, the world has made progress in preventing new infections and reducing the number of annual deaths. Experts credit a combination of education, various transmission prevention techniques and drugs to this decline. Planned Parenthoods around the world can take credit for being pioneers in comprehensive sexuality education, which teaches young people how to protect themselves from new infections and lead healthy, responsible sex lives. This leadership is strengthened by our incredible Member Associations that have integrated HIV prevention, treatment and education programs into existing sexual and reproductive health care.
New drugs are on the horizon that may ultimately prevent the transmission of the disease. But progress and eventual defeat of the disease is not foreordained: the global economic crisis has forced large donors and governments to reduce their contributions to vital HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in developing countries. That’s why our advocacy with donor governments and the United Nations is critical to ensuring a sustainable and smart approach to stemming the pandemic.
Over 30 million people infected with HIV are not receiving any treatment, and youth throughout the region lack access to the necessary information and skills they need to protect themselves from HIV infection. Reaching them will require additional unrestricted funding, yet we will not retreat until HIV/AIDS becomes a thing of the past.
Alexander Sanger is the Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and author of Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century. A former Goodwill Ambassador, he is the grandson of IPPF founder and reproductive rights pioneer Margaret Sanger.