Taking AIDS to zero


According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates, there are over 34 million people suffering from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), including 2.5 million children. During 2010 some 2.7 million people became infected with the virus, while an estimated 1.8 million people died from it. The vast majority of people with HIV and AIDS live in lower and middle-income countries. But HIV today is a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world. Marked for the first time on December 1, 1988, World AIDS Day has become one of the world’s most successful commemorative days, recognised and observed by a wide range of constituents every year across the globe. From 2011-2015, World AIDS Days will have the theme of “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination, Zero AIDS related deaths”.
According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), young people are at the center of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic “in terms of rates of infection, vulnerability, impact and potential for change.” An estimated 3,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 become infected with HIV every day, 40 percent of new HIV infections are also among this age group. A recent ground-breaking study for UNAIDS indicates, however, that young people are now leading the “prevention revolution” by taking action to protect themselves from HIV and, consequently, its prevalence among youth is dropping in many key countries, including Pakistan Chanan Development Association (CDA)’ a national youth lead organisation, in collaboration with Youth Peer Education Network (Y-PEER), Pakistan and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organised an “Awareness Seminar” to commemorate World AIDS Day at Al-Hamara Hall. More than 250 young people and representative of civil society, media and government officials participated in the event.
The main objective for observing and celebrating this day was to raise awareness amongst young people about HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as promote tolerance, and acceptance for people living with HIV/AIDS. Muhammad Shahzad Khan, CDA executive director, during his opening speech briefly shared the work of CDA and Y-PEER as well as the history of World AIDS Day. He said “today’s world needs the active, equal and meaningful youth participation in all the HIV prevention programming to work effectively towards a world getting to Zero”.
He added the report by UNAIDS, released on November 21 showed that 2011 was a game changing year for the AIDS response with unprecedented progress in science, political leadership and results. The report also shows that new HIV infections were reduced by 21 percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005.
A panel discussion was also arranged which was chaired by Saba Sadiq (MPA). Other panelists included Dr Samia Jamil (MPA), Mian Naseer (MPA), Raazia Naqvi (Punjab University), Nazoora (RWPF) and Sara Afzal (Y-PEER). All the panelists highlighted the fact that youth is one of the vulnerable groups to get infected by HIV/AIDS. They added that though the HIV prevalence in Pakistan is very low, but as Pakistan has a huge bulge of youth population, therefore, it was important to increase awareness on this issue.
A speech competition was also arranged during the event in which speakers highlighted that the people living HIV/AIDS need support, care and love without discrimination. Theatre performances were also staged by various groups including Chanan Theatre Group and prize were distributed amongst the winners of speech competition at the end.
Short documentaries of young people working with CDA, were also screened during the event.