World AIDS Day: How Far Have We Come
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Today is World AIDS Day, and our relationship to the disease has certainly changed over the years. Way back when, we pretended that it didn't exist. Then you could only catch it if you were gay. Then you could only catch it if you shared a toilet seat or a hug.
Okay, so we are far better-educated about Auto-Immune Deficiency Syndrome than we once were, but the battle is far from over.
Activists sought Saturday to keep the battle against HIV in the public eye on World AIDS Day in the face of growing complacency amid progress in treating and slowing the spread of the disease.
Even the Miss World beauty pageant on the Chinese holiday island of Sanya was enlisted to get out the message that the disease daily kills some 6,000 people.
Chinese President Hu Jintao appeared on the front page of major state-controlled newspapers shaking the hand of a woman HIV carrier the day after the UN warned up to 50 million Chinese are at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
December 1 has become a time of grim stocktaking as AIDS campaigners worldwide sound the alarm over the disease's rampage through Africa, the threat it poses to Asia and former Soviet republics, and the risks to vulnerable communities such as sex workers, drug users and gay men.
In Australia, campaigners warned that complacency after earlier success in fighting HIV/AIDS risked giving rise to a new wave of infections.
"This is the moment it all could go astray. This is the moment when it can become a pandemic," said AIDS awareness educator Vince Lovegrove, calling for a new campaign aimed at a new generation.
Nearly 50,000 people were expected to attend the concert -- the fifth of its kind launched under the campaign "46664" after Mandela's old prison number -- which features 30 local and foreign artists at the city's Ellis Park stadium.
Mandela himself was expected to make a rare appearance in between performances by stars such as Peter Gabriel, Live, Annie Lennox and Johnny Clegg, who have come together in support of Mandela's campaign to draw attention to AIDS issues.
Ludacris, the Goo Goo Dolls, Razorlight and Jamelia will also be performing alongside popular local artists for a campaign that has already raised some 20 million rand (two million euros, three million dollars) for AIDS projects in sub-Saharan Africa.
Even as we collectively get our arms around this thing, the numbers remain staggering:
In 2007, the estimated number of persons living with HIV worldwide was 33.2 million and there were 2.1 million AIDS deaths.