World AIDS Day 2009
Image via flickr user
It is just a few days after Thanksgiving, Christmas is a few weeks away, and the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are on the news. If you asked people about a current pandemic, they would be more likely to mention swine flu than AIDS; yet, today is World AIDS Day. Amidst the public-health hype over swine flu, it is easy to allow the AIDS pandemic to move to the back of our minds if it does not affect you directly. There are an estimated 33.4 million people living with HIV who do not have that luxury. The CDC claims that those living with HIV are at no greater risk for swine flu so long as the necessary precautions are taken, which can include the swine-flu vaccine. In 2008 there were 2 million AIDS-related deaths, whereas the WHO says that as of late November, there have been under 8,000 swine-flu deaths.
Like the flu.gov Web site, there is an aids.gov site complete with FAQ and a blog. The U.N. AIDS Web site provides much information on the most recent data along with interactive maps that explain about treatment and care worldwide. When the public-health community embraced social networking and new media, I thought it was novel and even blogged about it. Perhaps I was behind the times and had simply never had a reason to look at aids.gov to see the links to their Facebook page, their Twitter account, and their YouTube site. Social networking and new media are not tools that public-health officials use only for new pandemics and threats.
On today’s World AIDS Day it is important to recognize what we have accomplished: since 2001 the rate of HIV infection has decreased 17%. But an estimated 2.7 million people were infected worldwide in 2008. Starbucks will be donating money from all purchases made today, and Nike became the newest member of (RED). There are still battles to be fought, and we must not forget that hard work and financial cost are required to achieve worldwide testing, care, and prevention.