2006_05_unaids2.jpg

There are few birthdays we look towards with dread (ok, maybe our 30th). But as AIDS hits its 25th year since being discovered in the 1980s, detection, treatment, and understanding of the disease has come a long way yet has miles to go. There were 25 million new infections in the past 5 years with 15 million deaths over the same period. Currently 38.6 million people worldwide are infected (which is up from 37.3 million in 2005). Some drops in prevalence of the disease in Africa suggests that the rate of infection is slowing.

Locally, New York City has the highest AIDS case rate in the country, with more infected citizens than LA, San Francisco, Miami, and Washington combined. 80% of new cases and deaths occur in blacks and Hispanics and is the 3rd leading cause of death in the under 65 crowd.

health_aidsribbon.jpegAs we posted earlier this week, the anniversary brought a grove of protestors out to the UN yesterday to demonstrate against what’s been called a failure on the part of the United States to do enough about the virus. 21 people were taken into custody for resisting arrest. They weren’t alone in their sentiment: while they marched outside, within the walls of the UN, Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke of how short the world has fallen of the promises it made in 2001.

A new comprehensive report released by the United Nations this week breaks down all that’s been accomplished and what’s left on the to-do list:

The good news:
The number of new infections in a number of countries, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda, has fallen. The same holds for Haiti and the Bahamas (after Africa, the Caribbean is the world’s second most afflicted area).

The bad news:
In other countries, the infection rate is either increasing or remaining the same. This includes South Africa and India, countries particularly decimated by the virus. Other countries that haven’t fared as well include China, Indonesia, Russia, and Vietnam. Oh, and the number of infections continues to increase among women.

The good news:
The cash flow towards combating AIDS is at its greatest ever. In 2005, the world spent $8.3 billion on the disease, where it spent $1.6 billion in 2001.

The bad news:
While governments can throw all of the money they want at AIDS, real strides towards eradicating the disease will only come with the actually changing of social norms and the stigma attached to the ill. And this hardly persists only at the social level. Governments, including the US, the Vatican, and Saudi Arabia, refuse to shake their moral stances and allowing for programs that would provide clean needles for drug abusers. This is despite the fact that, for countries like Russia, the disease is largely spread by IV drug use.

The good news:
There has been a global increase in condom use, abstinence, and folks just having fewer sexual partners.

For free and confidential testing and counseling, visit the Department of Health page or call 212.427.5120.

Gothamist Health hopes that someday we’ll celebrate the anniversary of the day they found a cure for AIDS. Maybe we’ll even get a day off from school?

Photograph of protestors outside the UN from Stuart Ramson/AP