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World AIDS Day Message

December 1, 2002

As the world enters the third decade of AIDS, it is becoming clearer than ever that this is the most devastating disease humanity has ever faced. Driven by stigma and inequality the global epidemic makes ever deeper inroads into human security.

This year, for the first time in the epidemic's history, the number of women living with HIV has risen to 50 percent of the global total. On World AIDS Day we need to remind ourselves of ways in which stigma and inequality push women to the end of the treatment queue, exacerbate HIV risks, sustain sexual violence and deprive girls of schooling. Yet we also need to remember that women's organising in care, support and community education has been one key to success against the epidemic.

In Africa, AIDS has had a catastrophic effect on food security. With millions killed by AIDS, and millions more left ill, whole communities have been left defenseless when drought arrives. There are urgent appeals under way to support these badly affected communities, and the UN system and others are working to ensure that when food assistance is provided, there will also be specific attention to AIDS care and prevention.

The good news is that even the most severe HIV epidemic can be turned back, when HIV prevention and care are tackled seriously through community-wide efforts with the full support of governments, community organisations, religious institutions, and business. In every continent across the world, from cities and rural areas, we have examples of safe behaviours resulting in markedly lower HIV rates. The extension of access to care is slowly gaining momentum, and brings hope to millions.

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The World AIDS Campaign for 2002-2003 is all about stigma and discrimination -- tackle them and we are well on the road to winning the fight against AIDS. I therefore challenge each and every one of you to fight discrimination related to HIV/AIDS wherever you find it -- in your workplace, in your town or village, in your school, in your place of worship. Only when we make the virus our common enemy, not those affected by it, will we succeed in this global fight.




  
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This article was provided by UNAIDS. Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 

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