On World AIDS Day 2014, nearly 35 years into the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is important to reflect on how far we have come together. Not so long ago, hospital beds were filled with dying patients. Thankfully, due to our strong partnerships and collective efforts globally, new HIV infections have dropped by half since the peak of the epidemic and life expectancy has rebounded dramatically.
Despite tremendous progress, the HIV epidemic is not yet controlled. An AIDS-free generation is within our reach, but to get there we must deliver the right thing in the right place at the right time. The right thing means focusing on the highest impact interventions. When we focus on these interventions and bring them to scale, we see tremendous results. When we fail to focus and/or to reach scale, progress is slow or stalls. The right place means focusing our resources in key geographic areas, including at the sub-national level, and reaching the most vulnerable populations. The right time means getting ahead of and ultimately controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Continually fighting an expanding epidemic is not programmatically or financially sustainable.
To this end, USAID and our partners will host a number of events to mark World AIDS Day, and to celebrate the productive collaboration between the people of the Kyrgyz Republic and the United States to move towards our common goal of an AIDS-free generation.
On November 28, the people of the Issyk-Kul region will join forces to say “No to HIV.” This day will mark the culmination of a five-month campaign on HIV prevention run by the village health committees in seven rayons. The campaign, supported by the regional administration and USAID Quality Health Care Project, included announcements on TV and radio, calls for free HIV testing, essay and art competitions among high school students, and many other public events. To celebrate and share their achievements, village residents will participate in a march on the main street of Cholpon-Ata followed by a community concert.
In Osh city and region, a Caravan of Knowledge campaign for young people was launched on November 17. The campaign, supported by information sessions in Bishkek and Jalal-Abad, will promote a common theme of World AIDS Day: “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero deaths from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination.”
On December 1, in different regions of the country the USAID Dialogue on HIV and TB Project will organize events for people who are most at risk of contracting HIV to inform them about HIV prevention, symptoms, modes of transmission, and the importance of adherence to HIV treatment. Participants will also learn about HIV programs available in the Kyrgyz Republic, the history of World AIDS Day, and the use of the red ribbon as the symbol of solidarity with people living with HIV/AIDS.
For the past 25 years, World AIDS Day has been observed on December 1st to raise awareness of the fight against HIV/AIDS and to support people living with HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day is an important reminder that HIV remains one of the greatest health challenges facing the world. According to official data, there are 5,586 people in the Kyrgyz Republic living with HIV, but most experts estimate that the actual number is much higher.
USAID is working with the people and government of the Kyrgyz Republic to address HIV through a number of projects: the Dialogue on HIV and TB Project, the Quality Health Care Project, LEADER for people living with HIV, and the HIV React Project. These projects are implemented in partnership with Abt Associates Inc., Population Services International, the AIDS Foundation East-West, the Central Asian Union of People Living with HIV/AIDS, and Project HOPE.