Monday, December 08, 2008

Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

In 2008, AIDS persists as a global health crisis. And, though we don’t read too much about it in the U.S. press, it is a critically persistent problem in the U.S not to mention the world. Americans for UNESCO strongly supports UNESCO’s efforts in the fight against AIDS. Held annually on the first of December, the slogan for this year’s World AIDS Day was, “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise”, and it was unified by the theme of leadership. The 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day was celebrated this year and the world united to commemorate those who have died and to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic and the need of continued action and leadership.

Events will took place around the world to highlight existing programmes, launch new initiative, and raise awareness of key HIV and AIDS-related issues. From Azerbaijan to Zambia, from Bangladesh, to Kosovo, Malawi, Mongolia, and Vietnam, some 60 countries organized lessons on AIDS for over 10 million 13 to 18 year olds that were held simultaneously on December 1, 2008. In Paris, 1,000 children had their lesson at UNESCO Headquarters from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. in Room I. The emphasis on World AIDS Day 2008 was placed on the shortfall between commitments made to halt the spread of HIV and AIDS and actions taken to follow through on them. And activities occurred around the globe in honor and awareness of World AIDS Day.

UNESCO’s HIV and AIDS Education Clearinghouse is an online library and knowledge-sharing initiative, providing a language interface for technical resources on Education and HIV & AIDS. With over 4,000 references, it targets education professionals, ministries of education, development agencies, civil society, and researchers in providing a knowledge base and information exchange service around HIV and AIDS policies, programmes and advocacy. EDUCAIDS, the Global Initiative on Education and HIV & AIDS, is a UNAIDS initiative led by UNESCO. EDUCAIDS seeks to encourage and support countries to mobilize the education sector to design and implement effective responses to HIV and AIDS. EDUCAIDS has two main goals: to prevent the spread of HIV through education, and to protect the core functions of education systems from the worst effects of the epidemic.

In addition, the 15th Annual International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) took place from December 8 – 11, 2008 in Dakaar. It was defined by the principles of transparency, integrity, metamorphosis, and excellence. The main theme of the conference was, “Africa’s Response: Face the facts”, asking that people accept the epidemic and continue to acknowledge that more needs to be done. For more than two decades, the African continent has participated in the fight against AIDS and provided potential solutions to the numerous challenges posed by this epidemic. However, even as the fight continues, it is important to stop and evaluate these many initiatives, their efforts, effectiveness, and successes. The conference also stresses that is it also time to take stock of political commitments, unfulfilled promises and actions and practices employed in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The conference ended with a strong message: youth are essential in the response to AIDS. The closing ceremony began with a statement delivered by Ms. Souadou N'Doye, a young Senegalese woman. She spoke on behalf of all young Africans and urged those in attendance to ensure that young people are involved in the design of HIV programmes. She asked governments and partners to utilize the talents of young people from each country. Without young people, she stressed, the AIDS response is incomplete and ineffective. Ms. N’Doye brought to light the overarching theme of the conference and when she stated, "All that is done for us, but without us, is against us." Humankind needs leadership, unity, education, and resources to end this epidemic and World AIDS Day 2008 helped bring those needs and efforts to light.

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