For World AIDS Day 2010, CWS-P/A’s health team in Mansehra has organized a walk on December 1 to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS. As many as five hundred participants including school students, elders, religious leaders, and other community members will take part in the walk which will commence from CWS-P/A’s basic health unit in Ichrian. Students will also participate in a speech competition and display posters that demonstrate the causes and realities of HIV and AIDS.
Universal Access and Human Rights
Since 1988, December 1st each year marks the global World AIDS Day, with different themes for each year. For each World AIDS Day from 2005 through 2010, the theme is “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” with a yearly sub-theme. This overarching theme is designed to encourage political leaders to keep their commitment to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support by the year 2010. The sub theme for 2010 is Universal Access and Human Rights.
Some of the objectives of having a World AIDS Day are to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and stigma, and improve awareness education. World AIDS Day is important for reminding people that HIV has not gone away and that there are many things still to be done. It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV and AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe the event, often with speeches or forums on AIDS topics. Many civil society organizations also hold various events and programs to mark this event, such as seminars, conferences, walks, competitions, etc. The Red Ribbon is the global symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS. The Red Ribbon is worn by people all year round and particularly around World AIDS Day to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remind others of the need for their support and commitment. It is also a reminder that HIV can affect any person of any religious, cultural, or social background.
The theme for World Days 2010, Universal Access and Human Rights is of paramount importance as even thirty years from the time HIV was first identified, today also HIV positive people have to face various forms of stigma and discrimination. In many instances this leads to the violation of their basic human rights causing a majority of HIV positive people to lead marginalized lives. The protection of human rights is fundamental to combating the global HIV and AIDS epidemic. Violations against human rights fuel the spread of HIV, putting already marginalized groups, such as injecting drug users and sex workers, at a higher risk of HIV infection. By promoting individual human rights, new HIV infections can be prevented and people who have HIV can live free from stigma and discrimination. In Pakistan, according to estimates by UNAIDS, there are about 96,000 HIV positive people living in country. However, this figure can be debated; there are many risky behaviors prevalent in Pakistan that can cause people to become HIV infected. Some of these risky behaviors include unsafe blood transfusions, very low condom usage, and sharing of needles by some medical practitioners.
Pakistan is a highly conservative society where discussions on safe sex are considered taboo which results in people not receiving enough awareness on HIV prevention and puts many innocent people at high risk of infection. Sadly, even in the 2010 UNAIDS report there is no data at all available for Pakistan on the knowledge level and usage of condoms by the population.
World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for all of us – individuals, communities, civil society, and decision makers – to take action and ensure that human rights are protected and global targets for HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, and care are met. It is a reminder that although significant global progress has been made in the battle against HIV, countries like Pakistan still need to put in more effort and energy to raise awareness on the issue to prevent a high HIV prevalence rate in the country.
On this World AIDS Day, take action to tackle HIV prejudice and to protect yourself and others from HIV transmission.