Comprehensive responses linking prevention with treatment are the best hope for weakening its grip and preventing it from expanding.
As in past years, World AIDS Day is a moment for taking stock and for each of us to recall that AIDS remains a serious emergency. HIV continues to spread, with some 40 million people estimated to be living with the virus worldwide. International awareness-raising and mobilization are impressive, and many governments are committed to tackling the epidemic in a comprehensive way. Those most vulnerable, however, still tend to be dramatically under-served when it comes to the knowledge and means they need in order to protect themselves and others from infection and its consequences.
The ten UNAIDS cosponsors are working intensively with national authorities, bilateral donors and civil society to harmonize efforts, remove obstacles, and take both prevention and treatment programmes into the most affected areas and populations. A major inter-agency initiative to intensify prevention has galvanized all those concerned, and UNESCO is a strong partner in this effort.
EDUCAIDS, the UNESCO-led initiative on HIV/AIDS and education, will provide the main frame of reference for our work in the area of AIDS during 2006 and beyond. Seeking to bring to scale comprehensive responses adapted to particular situations, EDUCAIDS is working with education and development partners to ensure that the response to HIV and AIDS becomes an integral part of all development processes related to education. The diversity of the AIDS epidemic calls for customized responses but comprehensive education on HIV and AIDS is necessary everywhere. Targeted and adapted services are also essential to serve the most vulnerable groups if the spread and impact of AIDS are to be contained. EDUCAIDS has begun to work with a selected number of countries and will expand to some twenty countries in 2006, using capacity development, resource mobilization, and monitoring mechanisms to ensure effective prevention alongside treatment and care activities.
Prevention efforts cannot work in a climate of prejudice and discrimination, nor can they work without the participation and involvement of all those concerned: men and women, young persons, and, most of all, people living with the virus. In consequence, UNESCO’s commitment to and programmes for human rights, for establishing effective workplace policies for education personnel, and for gender equality are all being brought to bear on our efforts.
World AIDS Day is a reminder of the ongoing daily emergency. It is an occasion to renew commitment, review past results, and be reminded that the AIDS epidemic can and must be effectively curtailed as part of our push to achieve a better, safer and fuller life for everyone. This is why action against the spread of HIV and AIDS is an integral aspect of efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals, the Education for All goals and the objectives of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.