At the UN AIDS Summit earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on global nations to stop the spread of AIDS by 2020: “That is our goal-zero new infections, zero stigma and zero aids-related deaths,” he said at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York held June 8-10 in connection with the 30 year anniversary of AIDS. While new goals were being set by global leaders, UNA-GB’s Young Professionals group gathered this past week at Tommy Doyle’s, a local bar in Cambridge, to discuss the AIDS challenges of today, present achievements and future goals, as well as ways they can get involved locally.
Discussion was varied and informal among the group of 26 individuals, who ranged from local and international students to working professionals. Students from Uganda shared their experience of witnessing their family members dying from the disease before the country started its fight on the government level. They said they want to encourage other nations to learn from their mistakes and promote actions to reduce HIV infections and death total from AIDS. The group expressed its concerns about the fact that the world’s funding for AIDS will be reduced by 2020. Members of the group highlighted the importance of funding for AIDS service organizations and drug treatment for HIV and AIDS.
There was also some discussion about the limited successes achieved over the past 30 years in the battle with AIDS: HIV treatment has been discovered, but it only reduced the death numbers, with the virus spreading so rapidly, rather than eradicating it completely. The infections rate has been reduced for more than 25 percent in South Africa, but still 7ooo people are being infected each day, according to the UN. This global epidemic has an impact locally for the United States too – each year about 56,000 people becoming infected with HIV only in the U.S., according to the U.S. government statistics. Recently HIV/AIDS became a surging epidemic in Washington, D.C., with about 3 percent of the city’s population infected with HIV or AIDS. This is the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the nation.
Members of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts joined the discussion, and offered perspective on ways to take local action. The AIDS Action Committee, in collaboration with other organizations, was able to reduce HIV infections rates in Massachusetts by more than 59 percent over the last 10 years. The organization focuses on prevention and spread of the virus, and provides education about free resources available to people who have HIV and AIDS. Tory Stephens, Development Officer of AIDS Action Committee, shared that the highest death rate is for African-American women in the southern region of the country because there is no funding provided for prevention, education and treatment. It is for this reason that AIDS Actions treats AIDS as a social injustice and poverty issue because people who die from AIDS don’t have access to health care. The organization wants to encourage more young people to be involved in their work and extended an invitation for those at the Young Professionals event to participate in one of their future events, Artcetera, which will be a fundraising benefit for AIDS Action Committee and will help to provide medication to people who cannot afford it. This comes on the heels of their annual AIDS Walk in Boston, which was a great success earlier this month. To learn more about the organization’s mission and get involved, click here.
UNA-GB’s Young Professionals group meets every other month for their On Tap series at local area bars to discuss current international issues and social events. If you want to learn about the Young Professionals group and join them for the future events and discussions, click here and sign up to get email event notices here. Stay tuned for details coming about next month’s Taste Of event, focused on El Salvador!