World AIDS Day: Compassion & Prevention
December 1 is World AIDS Day. This is a day to raise awareness about HIV, to stand in solidarity with those living with HIV, to remember loved ones we have lost to HIV, and to work together to end HIV around the world.
We commemorate World AIDS Day 2016 by standing in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV. And, we remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported in the early 1980’s.
In spite of the progress that has been made against HIV over the past 15 years with the availability of proven prevention and treatment methods, the annual number of new HIV infections among adults has remained static at an estimated 1.9 million a year since 2010. Moreover, there has been resurgence of new HIV infections among key populations in some parts of the world.
2.79 billion people live in countries that criminalize homosexuality. Criminalization of one’s personhood, sexuality or gender expression makes one more vulnerable to HIV infection and less likely to receive adequate, even life-saving healthcare. The criminalization of homosexuality is a concern for civil society, a violation of both human dignity and human rights, and a public health concern.
Around the world, conservative political and religious ideology creates a climate of fear, stigmatization and persecution of LGBT persons and their families. This climate hinders public health initiatives and places LGBT persons in harm’s way with regard to HIV, joblessness and poverty.
Prevention is the international focus for World AIDS Day 2016 for UNAIDS. We have proven methods of prevention of infection. Significant barriers to prevention are criminalization of homosexuality and stigma. Faith voices and faith communities can and should make a difference by speaking out against criminalization and addressing stigma. Compassion is the way forward. We are all children of God and one human family.