World AIDS Day 2010
From Vatican Radio: Today is World AIDS Day. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since 1981; over 33 million people worldwide live with HIV, the virus that causes the disease. A report released last week by the UN’s AIDS agency says the global AIDS epidemic has slowed with a 20 percent decrease in new HIV infections over the past decade but it says there are still 7,000 new infections each day.
Sub-Saharan Africa is described as the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic and bears almost 70 percent of the global HIV burden. One small country in Africa where HIV/AIDS is a critical public health issue is Namibia. The prevalence of HIV there is among the highest in the world and has been the leading cause of death since 1996.
Maryknoll Fr. Richard Bauer is the head of Catholic Aids Action in Namibia. He fears that international solidarity with the plight of AIDS and HIV sufferers is waning: “I think the world is getting tired of AIDS ... Sometimes I say that AIDS is no longer a designer charity and it has sometimes gone off the radar, particularly with the global economic crisis.”
As more and more poor people get access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs, Fr. Bauer says “the diagnosis of AIDS is no longer a death sentence but it is a sentence of life-long medication.” He says his message for World AIDS Day, is “it's not over and if we fail in our response, AIDS is going to rise up and come back and get us. We just cannot let up on this.”
Click here to listen to the interview on Vatican Radio's website.
Fr. Rick Bauer and patient; photo by Sean Sprague, courtesy of Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers