It’s not even a week past World AIDS Day and already it’s become old news. There was a time when AIDS demanded our attention and focus, but it seems that increasingly, it is loosing it’s status as “the” issue to support. At one time, all the stars were standing behind AIDS initiatives, wearing red ribbons and demanding change. Today, however, it’s almost as if the world has grown somewhat complacent.
On Wednesday, SoChange attended a World AIDS Day breakfast in Toronto. We were seated at the back at table 23. There, we met some new people, and bumped into old acquaintances – a reminder of just how small the international development and social justice fields are. We listened to dignitaries, recovering politicians, performance artists and front line workers talk briefly about HIV/AIDS. We celebrated our successes. Then, when the brief speeches were over, the applauses done, we finished our coffees and headed out for our day. That was it. There was no push, no stress on the immediacy and urgency of our need to do something. And this, I fear, is what is letting this virus win.
Perhaps it was the presence and sponsorship of big pharma. Perhaps it was the desire to leave people feeling good about their work. Regardless, it wasn’t enough. Sure, we’re doing a lot to help in the battle against this epidemic, but you and I and everyone in that room knows, we can and should be doing a whole lot more.
According to ACT, the number of people living with HIV (including AIDS) in Canada continues to rise, from an estimated 57,000 in 2005 to approximately 65,000 by the end of 2009 (a 14% increase). Lest we forget – it is one of our MDGs – and in a few weeks we’ll be just four years away from our 2015 target. The time to act is still now – otherwise, our silence about this silent virus will win.