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World AIDS Day 2006

Dec 15, 2006

Friday, December 1 was World AIDS Day – the 19th consecutive year that individuals and agencies around the world have united to raise awareness and fight HIV and AIDS on this Day. "The issue of women and girls within the AIDS epidemic needs continued and increased attention," UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said in a World AIDS Day statement.

2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses this year, and there were 4.3 million new infections – 400,000 more new infections than in 2004, according to the UNAIDS 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update. The highest rates of new infections are among those ages 15 to 24 and among married women in their 20s and 30s. Two-thirds of all those infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa, and women make up 60 percent of those infected in the region.

Most experts agree that stopping violence is essential to slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS and to addressing the epidemic's disproportionate impact on women and children. Violence or fear of violence can keep women and girls from protecting themselves from infection, negotiating safer sex, getting counseling, getting tested, or getting treatment if they are HIV positive.

"In the 25 years since the first case was reported, AIDS has changed the world," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan said in a statement. "It has killed 25 million people and infected 40 million more. It has become the world's leading cause of death among both women and men aged 15 to 59. It has inflicted the single greatest reversal in the history of human development. In other words, it has become the greatest challenge of our generation."

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is accountability, which Annan said "requires every President and Prime Minister, every parliamentarian and politician, to… work for real, positive change that will give more power and confidence to women and girls, and transform relations between women and men at all levels of society." Accountability also "requires fathers, husbands, sons and brothers to support and affirm the rights of women," he added. "It requires teachers to nurture the dreams and aspirations of girls. It requires men to help ensure that other men assume their responsibility – and understand that real manhood means protecting others from risk. And it requires every one of us help bring AIDS out of the shadows, and spread the message that silence is death."

The World Health Organization reports that more than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, and predicts another 117 million AIDS-related deaths in the next 25 years.

The red ribbon is the symbol for AIDS awareness, worn in support of people living with HIV and in remembrance of those who have died. On Friday, December 1st, people around the world wore red ribbons for World AIDS Day.

More information on World AIDS Day is available at www.unaids.org/en/

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