Today, December 1st, marks World Aids Day; a UN global initiative to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourn those who have died of the disease.
The stigma attached to those who suffer from the virus that attacks an individual’s immune system must not simply be challenged, but eradicated. The myths surrounding the contraction of HIV also deserve dispelling, with victims not only fearing a lifelong and debilitating disease, but subject to judgement, marginalisation and at times, exile.
Firstly, we, as the Muslim community, must educate. Without open dialogue and the dissemination of the correct information, our society cannot, and will not, move toward an inclusive, understanding and preventative milieu.
As entities in each sector of our society advocate for the awareness of AIDS and collectively mourn the mass loss of life to such a violent and engulfing disease, it is our duty to not simply follow suit, but to lead the efforts of awareness.
- 19.5 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy in 2016.
- 36.7 million [30.8 million–42.9 million] people globally were living with HIV in 2016.
- 1.8 million [1.6 million–2.1 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2016.
- 1 million [830 000–1.2 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2016.
- 76.1 million [65.2 million–88.0 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic.
- 35.0 million [28.9 million–41.5 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
- In 2016, there were 36.7 million [30.8 million–42.9 million] people living with HIV.
The groundbreaking and life-changing medical and scientific innovations with regards to the AIDS pandemic have facilitated the possibility of somewhat of a normal functionality and lifespan of those who have access to the necessary medication.
What we must remember, however, is the lack of accessible and affordable healthcare in areas that harbour the most hard-lined and widespread transmission of the virus. It is in this context that we must further our efforts to not only educate, raise awareness and facilitate dialogue, but to work toward the assurance that every individual has access to free and fair healthcare.
Free and accessible healthcare is a prerequisite to bettering the lives of each and every citizen, or non-citizen, in the entirety of global civilisation, regardless of the condition of their health.
2017 Theme: My health, my right
Everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live, has a right to health, which is also dependent on adequate sanitation and housing, nutritious food, healthy working conditions and access to justice. The right to health is supported by, and linked to, a wider set of rights.
Ending AIDS as a public health threat can only happen if these rights are placed at the centre of global health, so that quality health care is available and accessible for everyone and leaves no one behind.
This year’s World AIDS Day campaign focuses on the right to health.
The #MyRightToHealth campaign will provide information about the right to health and what impact it has on people’s lives. It will also aim to increase the visibility around the need to achieve the full realization of the right to health by everyone, everywhere.
Almost all of the Sustainable Development Goals are linked in some way to health, so achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which include ending the AIDS epidemic, will depend heavily on ensuring the right to health.
Remarkable progress is being made on HIV treatment. UNAIDS has launched a new report showing that access to treatment has risen significantly. In 2000, just 685 000 people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy. By June 2017, around 20.9 million people had access to the life-saving medicines.
Such a dramatic scale-up could not have happened without the courage and determination of people living with HIV demanding and claiming their rights, backed up by steady, strong leadership and financial commitment.
In order to truly eradicate the AIDS pandemic worldwide, we must advocate and educate. We must adhere to the pillar of Zakat in attempts to ensure healthcare for each and every individual, both vulnerable and not.
It is our obligation, first as human beings and then as Muslims, to fight for the rights of our brothers and sisters globally. AIDS is not an exclusive issue for a certain sector of the community.
AIDS is a problem that requires the entirety of humanity to not only tackle, but to eradicate. AIDS is a problem for us all, lest we continue to marginalise, ostracise and stigmatise the face of AIDS.