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DKS Editors

For 20 years, people around the globe – despite their sex, gender, race, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation or disability – have come together on December 1 to recognize the worldwide epidemic that is HIV/AIDS on Worlds AIDS Day.

We didn’t say outbreak. We didn’t say a few isolated cases.

We said epidemic.

In the time it takes you to read this editorial, one person somewhere in the world will be infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and two children will die from AIDS.

Last month, a group of St. Louis students got a mind-blowing reality check. On Oct. 13, Normandy High School officials sent a letter home to parents and guardians informing them the St. Louis County Department of Health that had reason to believe almost 50 students may have been exposed to HIV.

“It’s the only thing we talk about,” junior Jamar McKinney told the New York Times for a Nov. 8 article. “Who could have HIV, who started it, how many people may have it. We always agree on who we think has it … I don’t trust nobody until I see results. Nobody wants to walk around and say they’ve got HIV because of how they’re going to be treated. Everybody’s just going to think they’re a walking disease.”

If that’s the way you want to look at it, there are 33 million walking diseases across the world living with HIV. In the United States alone, 56,300 new infections occurred in 2006.

But that can’t be the way we look at it.

The only good done by breaking down HIV/AIDS infection rates is it helps health organizations best direct their resources to the people who need them most right now. HIV/AIDS is not just a gay disease or an African disease – it is a disease that threatens the resolve of the human race.

And it’s never been easier to do a small part to help those who need it. From Thanksgiving until Jan. 2, 2009, Starbucks is donating 5 cents from each signature beverage purchase to (RED), an international collaboration between business that donate up to 50 percent of some of their products purchases to the Global Fund to help with HIV/AIDS programs in Africa. Companies including Dell, Microsoft, Apple and Converse all offer PRODUCT (RED) purchases.

Every day, nearly 7,500 people are infected with HIV and 5,500 die of AIDS. It is a social problem. It is a cultural problem. It is a political problem. It is an economic problem. HIV/AIDS is a crisis that’s going to plague humanity until we stop pointing fingers, until we look past our prejudices and discrimination and until we come together as a global community invested on making the future a better place for young people.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.