Today is World AIDS Day. Today we remember those infected and affected by the epidemic, we celebrate the achievements over the past year, and we refocus on our goals for the coming year.
What We're Up Against
If you aren't familiar with how big of a problem HIV/AIDS is, please take a few minutes to learn about the epidemic:
- There are 36.7 million individuals living with HIV, and 1.8 million more are infected each year.
- Africa is the most affected region, with 25.6 million individuals living with HIV.
- Only 20.9 infected individuals are receiving treatment; only 43% of infected children have access.
- Only 70% of infected people know their status.
- The epidemic has already claimed 35 million lives, and around 1 million more die each year.
- Tuberculosis accounts for one third of AIDS-related deaths; nearly 60% of cases are never diagnosed or treated.
- In Namibia, 13.8% of the population is living with HIV, and nearly 4,300 people die from AIDS-related causes each year.
- There are around 640,000 orphans in Namibia due to AIDS.
If you glazed over that list of numbers, that's understandable - It can be a lot to take in. Instead of trying to compute and calculate the statistics, let's make this a bit more relatable: Imagine you're in class or at work or at a family holiday, surrounded by 20 friends and loved ones. Now imagine that 3 of those loved ones are infected with HIV, and 1 doesn't even know it. Of the 2 that know their status, only 1 has access to treatment. Can you imagine knowing that, and not helping them?
How Far We've ComeThere have been huge successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS - especially in Namibia. However, we're far from done. Many organizations have a goal of completely eliminating the epidemic by 2030, which is attainable if you consider the progress so far!
- Since 2000, new infections have dropped 11% in adults and 47% in children!
- Since 2005 (the peak of the epidemic), AIDS-related deaths have dropped 48%!
- Since 2000, 13.1 million lives have been saved by antiretroviral therapy (ART).
- In Namibia, last year was a big year in tackling treatment AND prevention:
- Treatment guidelines were revised and the "Treat-All" initiative was piloted.
- Over 95% of health facilities now provide prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and increased early infant screening and treatment.
- There was in increased focus on gender inequality, violence, and human rights.
What Lies Ahead
If we're going to eliminate the epidemic by 2030, there are a few challenges we need to overcome, especially in Namibia. While Namibia is actually one of the wealthiest countries in Africa overall, there is a huge discrepancy between rich and poor, between those with access to treatment and those without. Today, the US Embassy Namibia announced that a new ART site was opened in Katima Mulilo! However, this treatment can only be received if people know about it, and if they understand the importance of being tested and treated.
Despite our progress, we can't lose focus. Until the stigma is gone and the epidemic completely defeated, we have work to do. We'll continue to show the people in this region that they are loved, encourage them to grow into strong and educated citizens, and provide for their basic needs. Will you continue to help us?
Thank you to all of generous supporters around the globe, and thank you to our amazing staff and volunteers in Namibia, for joining us in our goal of helping as many people as possible - especially those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Vice Chair, Board of Directors
Thanks to the following sources for all of the statistics we gathered. Will you take a few minutes today to learn more?