The International AIDS Conference is taking place in the United States for the first time in twenty-two years. Policy makers, people living with HIV, and those who have dedicated their lives to find a cure, gathered yesterday to converse about the pandemic.
More than 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV – the virus that causes AIDS. An estimated two and a half million were infected last year.
Even though more high school students are using condoms than they did twenty years ago, the danger of HIV transmission is still there. At the conference yesterday, CDC researchers reported 4 of every 10 new HIV infections occur in people younger than 30. About 60 percent of sexually active high school students say they used a condom the last time they had sex, compared to 46 percent back in 1991. Although the number has improved, it also means that there is still a large amount of young people who are not using condoms.
With 150 million dollars pledged by American officials to fight AIDS around the world, funding is set to target at risk populations. The most vulnerable populations continue to be gay and bisexual men, sex workers and IV drug users. In many countries, there are stigmas and even laws against these practices, which drives these groups away from AIDS programs that could help them stay safe.
Looking forward, about $15 million will go to research to find the best HIV prevention tools in different countries. There is also an estimated $20 million pledged to create a challenge fund to support countries that are trying to put those tools into practice.
Another important goal is to eliminate mother to child transmission of the disease abroad by 2015. Although an estimated 330,000 children became infected last year, babies born with HIV are rare in the United States and are dropping steadily worldwide.
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