AIDS: still a long road ahead

News flash: AIDS is still a major problem.

Nothing new, you say? Well, if you believe as some would have you, AIDS isn’t as big of a problem because the United Nations has revised its HIV infection estimate, saying there are actually 7 million fewer cases than previously thought in 2006.

Seven million fewer people is great news because it means that many fewer people don’t have it. But, there are still an estimated 33.2 million people living with HIV right now. That’s still too many.

The United Nations is worried people won’t see AIDS as such a big problem after this revision. The revisions came from areas with high infection rates, namely India, Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Though there aren’t as many people there with HIV, the United Nations has stated these areas still need more preventative and treatment measures to combat the spread of HIV.

According to the U.N. Web site:

• 25.8 million people have HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.

• There are 8.3 million people with HIV in Asia.

• In 2005, 70 percent of the newly infected in Eastern Europe and Central Asia were younger than 30.

• Western Europe and North America are the only regions of the world where people with HIV can receive the regular treatment they need.

These aren’t very promising facts. The best news so far is that the number of HIV/AIDS related deaths are declining globally because of improved treatment programs. So, fewer people are dying from it, but the number of people living with HIV is increasing.

By now you may be remembering all the other editorials, columns and other calls to action about AIDS and figuring how this one will fit in. But why stop there?

So, in honor of World AIDS Day, why not go get tested? It’s a simple procedure and an important step in fighting against the spread of HIV.

Think about it like this: If you are 100 percent certain you don’t have HIV, then this would be the easiest test you’d ever have to pass. It will also increase the accuracy of HIV infection statistics. You’d get a clean bill of health and help the monitoring of HIV.

If you aren’t certain, then you absolutely must be tested. You owe it to yourself and your partners, past and present, to find out the truth. This way you can either feel relieved or start the treatment you’d need.

Don’t think it could happen to you? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5,000 other American 15- to 24-year-olds in 2005 didn’t think so either. To put this in perspective, that would be about one fourth of our student body. That would be one in every four people you pass – that is, if you don’t include yourself.

AIDS won’t go away by ignoring it. The medical community is doing everything it can to fight against it, but they can only do so much. The primary fight should be against spreading HIV, so it all comes down to you.

Be smart and be safe. You know what you should do, so do it.

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