London turned red for World AIDS Day

by Matt More

Last night, landmarks around the world were turned red to commemorate World AIDS day. In London, County Hall and the London Eye were illuminated to raise awareness of (RED)’s goal of an AIDS free generation by 2015.

In 2008, approximately 430,000 children were born with HIV, roughly 18% lower than in 2001. This figure fell further in 2009 as UNAIDS estimated that approximately 370,000 babies were born with HIV. Under the last Labour government, DfID played a significant role in helping to reduce mother to child transmission of HIV. LCID calls on the Coalition Government to continue this commitment to combat HIV and AIDS globally, and ensure that the goal of an AIDS free generation is achieved by 2015.

Ahead of World AIDS Day, David Cairns writes for Progress

Tomorrow, 1 December, is World AIDS Day. Ahead of the day, David Cairns has written for Progress about his experiences meeting an inspirational woman in Nairobi, Kenya. This woman, who spoke out about her HIV, found that her son was sacked from his job, even though his employers knew he was not HIV positive.

Stories like this are all too familiar, as we well know. To stop it, considerable work has been done across the world, but more has to be done. Summing up, Cairns says:

The government needs to give a clear signal now that the UK remains committed to working through the Global Fund, which is the most effective, multilateral partnership operating today. Failure to do so would be an abdication of the international leadership position that, under Labour, the UK built up over the past decade and give others the excuse to reduce their own contributions. If this happens the fight against HIV and AIDS will get a whole lot harder.

You can read the article in its entirety over on the Progress website.

By Tim Nicholls

The effect of HIV/AIDS on women in the developing world

Huge advancements have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS since the 80s, but the fight is getting harder and numbers of people contracting HIV are growing. This International Women’s Day, it is worth pausing to contemplate the disproportionately devastating toll that this infection takes on women in the developing world.

We have all heard harrowing tales of infection being passed through rape in armed conflict, or from promiscuous partners in relationships that still value wives as personal chattels. These stories effect us deeply, but the effects on women in the developing world are often beyond our comprehension. HIV/AIDS does not just affect the person it infects: it cuts down people in their prime, it kills breadwinners and it makes full-time carers out of those who could otherwise work to earn money for food, clothing and schooling. In many cases, it can be a death sentence for a whole family. Children are orphaned and developing countries stagnate whilst their workforce dies.

Speaking for the Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, Deborah Jack said:

“Women are disproportionately affected by HIV globally, yet they still do not have a widely accepted prevention method they can initiate and control.  Whilst existing prevention strategies are essential, new tools such as microbicides or a vaccine, could offer women a powerful new way to protect themselves against HIV.”

That is why this Government, through DfID has committed itself to fighting the tide of HIV/AIDS. As one of the first Governments to fund research into microbicides and antiretroviral therapies, the UK’s track record is strong. Going forward, the Global AIDS Strategy commits the Government to a 50% increase in funding of vaccines and microbicides during the 2008-2013 period.

There is no question about continued support for the fight against HIV/AIDS by a Labour Government. More funding for prevention, more funding for microbicides and vaccines, ensuring treatment: these commitments are solid.

It is all too easy to focus on the medical effects of HIV/AIDS. Although these are devastating to individuals, the social effects on families, communities, even whole nations are greater still and especially hard on women.

By Tim Nicholls

Global Leadership Shown on Aids

World Aids Day: A time to remember the lost and for the world to take action to ensure a preventable disease ravaging many developing countries doesn’t blight future generations.

I started working on HIV and Aids with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa in 2005. The country was in the midst of a health disaster – rates of new infections were soaring, treatment wasn’t reaching those in need and the South African government had taken dangerous steps by entertaining denialists and publicly recommending garlic and olive oil in place of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).

World Aids Day in 2005 went by in a flurry, with Zackie Achmat – TAC’s then Chairperson and a founding member– declaring staff to continue working on as usual as ‘every day is World Aids Day here’.  There was much to do, and Zackie’s drive helped to push forward a major treatment material, ‘ARVs In Our Lives’.

Things look very different in 2009. I was buoyed with news reaching me in London of South Africa’s current President, Jacob Zuma, showing real leadership in his country’s fight against HIV and Aids, declaring he’ll take a HIV test and commit to providing all HIV-positive children under a year with anti-retroviral drugs. His words signal an end to denialism and a new start for South Africa.

And so I proudly wore my TAC t-shirt today to Number 10, where Gordon and Sarah Brown attended a special performance from the African Children’s Choir to mark the day. The Prime Minister reiterated his words from his official address and with 5 million people still seeking treatment, he provided words of determination in tackling the fight still ahead.

The UK government is the second biggest bilateral Aids donor, and is looking to secure this position by legally committing to 0.7% spending on international aid. I hope this commitment materialises and call on all to back the campaign to secure this so the UK’s sterling work to ensure HIV and Aids becomes history can continue with force.

Serena O’Sullivan

Trade Unions tackling AIDS

World Aids Day is an important time to stop and think, and an important moment to be open and honest, raise awareness and dispel the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

I will always remember the first time I wore a red ribbon on the 1st December. I was at secondary school, and I didn’t think twice about proudly wearing it in support of people with HIV/AIDS. However it became a struggle to keep it on through the day as kids taunted me for wearing it, saying it meant I had AIDS.
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I’d love to think this wouldn’t happen today (this was well over a decade ago), but the fact is stigma and prejudice against people with HIV is still rife. That is why World Aids Day and the wearing of red ribbons are still so important, and why HIV/AIDS is still an important Trade Union issue. Like all discrimination, Trade Unions take a hard line. Unions and campaigners were successful in getting protection of people with HIV as part of disability discrimination legislation, but as with all such issues the law is only as good as how it is implemented on the ground.
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All Trade Unionists need to be continually vigilant against discrimination.
More than this, HIV has become a massive issue for workers across the word. HIV has devastated working people in many developing countries, damaging their ability to live and work and their ability to organise together to make things better. UNISON can be rightly proud of our response and our work with our sister unions internationally. This focuses on supporting Southern African unions in developing their response to HIV through the organisation Public Sector Unions fighting AIDS in southern Africa (PSUFASA).
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So today, lets remember all those who have suffered, think about those who are still dealing with HIV and re-double our support for all the work going on across the world.
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by James Anthony, a member of the Unison NEC and development activist. james-unison.blogspot.com

Gordon Brown’s World AIDS Day message

The African Children’s Choir today made a stop off at Number 10 today to mark World AIDS Day…and were really really cool!! You can hear them by visiting http://africanchildrenschoir.com/

The event was hosted by Gordon Brown & Glenys Kinnock. Please have a look at the PM’s message for World AIDS Day below.

“Over the last ten years, we have invested nearly three million pounds in targeted domestic prevention work and Britain has some of the best treatment and care services in the world.

“But there is no room for complacency. More than a quarter of people with HIV don’t know they have it because they haven’t been tested. And people living with HIV still often face prejudice.”