December 1st marks World AIDS Day. The observance started in 1988 to provide a unique opportunity to highlight the seriousness of the epidemic. Unfortunately, today HIV infection rates continue to climb, especially in communities of color.
People of color are often diagnosed with HIV later and, therefore, it is more difficult to treat. This is true in Los Angeles, the United States and around the world.
It is only fitting that this year's World AIDS Day theme is focused on leadership, with the underlying slogan "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise."
The leadership theme hopes to empower everyone from individuals to organizations to governments to lead in the response to AIDS. It reminds people around the world to remain united in urgent action to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS, and to increase the understanding and compassion for those living with HIV and AIDS. The theme also is to honor the commitment to stop HIV infections and AIDS.
On this World AIDS Day, there is an undeniable optimism and a feeling of hope as the country's new leadership pledges to take a new look at how the community can better address the disease.
It is important that the country develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal, state, and local agencies.
This comprehensive approach is needed more now than ever, especially in Los Angeles County where African-Americans have the highest case rate of any racial or ethnic group.
In Los Angeles County alone, more than 60,000 men, women and children are estimated to be living with HIV, including those living with AIDS and those unaware of their infection. More than 30,000 residents have died from AIDS with more than 2,000 persons testing HIV positive each year, with persons of color accounting for 71% of all AIDS cases diagnosed in 2007.
Community organizations are planning World AIDS Day activities that include HIV counseling and testing, HIV educational outreach programs, and remembrance ceremonies throughout Los Angeles County.