December 1st marks World AIDS Day (WAD).
In 2012, 25.3 million people globally were living with HIV while 2.3 million people became newly infected with HIV. During the same year, 1.6 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Since 1988, the day has been devoted to uniting people worldwide in the fight against HIV. It is a day to show support for people living with HIV and remember those who have lost their lives to this disease. It is an important day, as it raises awareness by reminding the public and governments that AIDS has not vanished.
Today in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Government representatives along with United Nations officials, academia, and the media commemorated World AIDS Day (WAD) at the Ministry of Health and Medical Education. Between 2011-2015, the theme for all WADs is: “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.”
In addressing the event, Dr. Sayyari, Health Deputy at the Ministry of Health and Medical Education emphasized the need for awareness raising and public discourse where everyone can freely and equally share and express their ideas and knowledge about HIV/AIDS in order to overcome the remaining obstacles so that “Getting to zero” can become a reality rather than just being a slogan and a theme.
Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative said: “The first group of people that I wish to recognize in the audience today are our brothers and sisters – who are living with HIV, who are living positively – and who are setting an example for us of how to live with dignity and to fight discrimination and prejudice.” He then asked the audience to join him in applauding these members in recognition of their example. Mr. Lewis read to the audience the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s message on WAD.
Dr. Doroudi, UNAIDS Country Coordinator read the press statement of Mr. Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “It is certain that ending the AIDS epidemic will mean so much to so many. It will mean zero new HIV infections, zero people dying of AIDS – and all people living with dignity and without fear of discrimination. Ending AIDS will mean celebrating birthdays instead of attending funerals. But make no mistake, stigma, denial and complacency are still among us, putting us in danger for failing the next generation. We must join our hearts and our voices – together we are stronger” was part of Mr. Sidibe message to world.
Iranian Health Minister, Mr. Hashemi shared with the audience his perspective. He stated that due to lack of public knowledge and weak social support system in the country, HIV prevention in the country has been slow. He too emphasized on the need for “unity” in society as well as proper educating in order to combat HIV. Mr. Hashemi also unveiled the new Ministry of Health’s website which focuses on the topic of “HIV/AIDS.”
HIV/AIDS remains one of the world's most significant public health challenges, and although WAD is a great opportunity to get the public involved in talking about HIV, there still exist a need to remember the importance of raising awareness of HIV all year round.