Today the International AIDS conference officially opens its doors for more than 15,000 delegates from all over the world. The coming 5 days researchers, activists and policymakers from more than 160 countries will inform, present, exchange, network and brainstorm in order to reflect where we are, what we have achieved and what to expect.
A world free of HIV and AIDS is still a far reality. Recent statistics show that an estimate of 36,7 million people live with HIV, while approximately 35 million persons have died of the disease since the start of the epidemic in the early 1980’s. Africa remains the most affected continent, but a worrisome increase of HIV infections is observed in Eastern Europe as well as Central Asia.
The biggest achievements over the past period is the increase of individuals on effective treatment and the expansion of knowledge and options for (decentralized) care and prevention. Currently, worldwide between 55-60% of HIV-infected individuals are on antiretroviral treatment. On a positive note, this is an enormous accomplishment as less than 10 years ago treatment in the most affected countries was hardly available. However, it also reflects the long road ahead of us to ensure all HIV-infected persons have access to life-saving medication in order to combat the virus and live a long life with a chronic disease.
A positive change has also been seen in the field of stigma. In 1992 the organization of the International AIDS conference was abruptly transferred from the Boston, USA to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, as it was unacceptable that HIV-infected persons, including persons who wanted to attend the conference, were by law not allowed a visa to enter the USA. In 25 years, the world has changed and in some parts of the world pre-occupied statements and thoughts on HIV/AIDS have diminished, unfortunately, in the coming days during the Conference we will be confronted with continued testimonials of stigma and inequality.
Health[e]Foundation looks forward to an exciting week of Sharing and Caring. We will take the opportunity of having the Conference in our hometown to meet with trainees, partner organizations, authors and many others to update and motivate ourselves to continue our efforts on education, knowledge sharing and facing and breaking challenges.