World AIDS Day 2013

World AIDS Day 2013 Statement

 

Dearest SCORAngels,

Today is December 1st, 2013 and today as many of you know is World AIDS Day!

This year’s World AIDS Day finds many reasons for us to celebrate. New HIV infections have decreased 33% since 2001 with a 52% decrease amongst children and a decrease in 50% or more new cases amongst adults and adolescents in 26 countries around the world.  Furthermore, we are getting closer and closer to ensuring that 15 million people living with HIV/AIDS attain their necessary treatments by 2015. And most importantly, AIDS related deaths have dropped 30% since their peak in 2005.

And while this is all great news, there is still much work to be done! In many regions in the world, there is still barely any data about the amount of HIV positive individuals or transmission. In some cases, the data is so skewed that it doesn’t even make sense! Many people aren’t getting tested because they often think, “Oh that could never happen to me!” or “That only happens to people who sleep around or the gays.”

We’ve moved far from the days in which HIV was known as Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease (or GRID); however, HIV related discrimination is still very prominent. People can still lose their jobs for being HIV positive and in some cases aren’t allowed to enter a country at all due to the HIV status. People living with HIV/AIDS are still being referred to as the “HIV positive patient” in our hospitals, regardless of their chief complaint. They are still harassed to find out how they got the virus and too often it is said that they “deserve it” for their behavior.

Regardless of who, what, how, why, and when, a person living with HIV/AIDS is still a person who deserves the rights and respect that should be given to every person on this earth. For at the end of the day, all that separates him or her from the rest of society is a virus that happens to be transmitted via blood or sexual contact.

I often find myself asking, why is this virus so different from the rest of those viruses and bacteria that are transmitted in similar ways? Is it because there is no cure yet? Is it because of the people it affected most first? Either way, the facts are there, that in this day in age, it is a tolerable disease, which if treated properly, can lead to a long and healthy life. And the only cure we really have is prevention.

And that is where we come in. On this day SCORAngels, I want you to wear your red ribbon proudly and I want you to walk through the streets, spreading this message: that HIV is here, it’s everywhere, and everyone should do their part to help out, not through stigmatizing and discriminating, but through showing care and compassion. Ignorance only causes harm but knowledge is power, and knowledge leads to a more tolerant and accepting society.

Throughout my 4 years in SCORA, I have and the opportunity to participate in 4 World AIDS Day events in my NMO in Lebanon. And each year it is remarkable how drastic the shift in public opinion is. Each year, we see less and less derogatory statements and each year the number of people who actively listen and thank us for what we are doing increases. The evidence is there people, we are making a difference, and even if you manage to change only one person’s opinion, that’s one more person on our side.

So SCORAngels, keep doing everything that you’re doing. Keep pushing hard to make changes in your communities. Keep fundraising for people living with HIV/AIDS. Keep handing out condoms on busy streets and in your colleges. Keep giving out free hugs and giving talks about safe sex practices. Keep posting pictures of you forming giant red ribbons and flashmobs. Keep telling people to test themselves as well as their sexual partners. Keep making a change and let’s make sure we “Get to Zero” sooner rather than later. And like I said, make sure to wear your red ribbons proudly and start the conversation, because if we don’t, no one else will.

With lots of SCORA love,

Joe Cherabie

Director on Reproductive health and HIV/AIDS

Get to Zero

This year’s World AIDS Day theme is about getting to zero – zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination. Medical students around the world gather this week on the local, national and international level to mark the World AIDS Day. Together they have extensively organized conferences, lectures, peer education training sessions, flash-mobs, parties and concerts in order to spread awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS. Thousands of them with one strong message – ‘Get To Zero!’

Uniting their activities together on the international level, they produced the IFMSA World AIDS Day 2011 video and the IFMSA World AIDS Day 2011 posters that demonstrate medical students from 27 countries representing the number of new HIV infections per year in their countries. The physicians-in-training capture their inspiration to reducing the number of new HIV infections per year to zero. These not only inspired, but aware medical students recognize that controlling and eradicating the spread of the virus is the only truly effective way forward in the HIV/AIDS epidemic: ”We in IFMSA decided to raise our voices in highlighting the importance of making new HIV infections get to zero.”

Overview
Thirty years into the HIV epidemic provides us an opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved and what needs to be done. Looking at the UNAIDS Global Reports of 2009 and 2010, the number of AIDS-related deaths is stabilizing on an estimate of 1.8 million which is seemingly lower than years before. This success is thanks to the important achievements in the treatment of the virus and in delaying the AIDS defining illnesses and death. However, 10 million people still need treatment and do not have access to antiretroviral therapy. Recently the data shows that in some high-income countries where the treatment has been made widely available, the number of new HIV infections is increasing, especially in some populations (i.e. men having sex with men). Comparing the number of new HIV infections on a global level in 2009 and 2010, we see the increase from an estimate of 2.7 to 2.8 million new HIV infections per year. Although it is lower than in the late 1990s, the trend of new HIV infections per year is again increasing, and the time is now to reverse it before it takes the swing with the consequences that could be devastating.

IFMSA’s Perspective
We, in IFMSA believe that the more treatment we have, the more prevention we need! Latest results showing that treatment as much as prevention can reduce the risk of transmission of HIV by 96% are encouraging and exciting, but still it will take years to put the estimated 10 million people on the treatment. With the disappointing trial results of the microbicides gel failing to prevent HIV transmission, more than ever it is necessary to recognize the importance of the effective preventative methods that are often not transcribed into consolidated, organized and serious actions. It is clear that successful HIV prevention programs need to be based on providing a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS education addressing sexuality, gender equality, sexual orientation, attitudes and values. We believe it is the only effective way in achieving behavioral change and adopting safer sexual practices which will lead to significant and rapid decrease in the number of people newly infected with HIV.

We also feel that young people need to be involved in every aspect from policy development to implementation to eradicate the spread of HIV/AIDs. The importance of such comprehensive sexual education as HIV prevention is even higher when we know that young people aged 15-24 account for 42% of all new HIV infections. There is clear evidence that young people are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic and that the AIDS response must be shaped to respond to these urging numbers of young people being at the spear tip of the epidemic.

We believe this is a goal than can and must be achieved by empowering, educating and investing in the youth.

We in IFMSA, as a youth-led non governmental organization, see ourselves as a advocates for young people, those newly infected with HIV daily and those millions living under the everyday threat of becoming infected, when we say that now is the time of making the new HIV infections get to zero. On this World AIDS Day, we are calling upon institutional organizations, governments and stakeholders to reaffirm that they must accord top priority to making investments in putting young people in the center of the fight against HIV/AIDS as it is for the well-being of our tomorrow.

Joško MIŠE
IFMSA Director on Reproductive Health including AIDS 2011/2012

About IFMSA:
For over 60 years, the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) has striven to foster a more caring future generation of physicians. Our Federation represents over 1.2 million medical students from 106 national member organizations from 99 countries across the globe. The IFMSA is an active network of young people engaged in their communities in order to contribute to achieving global health. Enjoying official relations with the WHO since 1969, IFMSA is recognized as the international voice of medical students. We organize 11,000 medical student exchanges a year and a wealth of student-led projects which fall into four main fields of interest: medical education, public health, human rights and peace, and reproductive health, including HIV/AIDs.

Day 4 in the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris:A happy ending!

Welcome to the 4th and last day of the 7th Youth Forum live from UNESCO headquarter in Paris.
IFMSA  was missing one powerful member: Our LO to SCORP Nassima as she had to leave the previous day  but the delegation was still as effective as before.
In the morning session, every region had a meeting to discuss the final report written by the drafting committee. After 2 hours of suggestions and amendments, the delegates gathered all together to agree on the final draft.
As I said before” EFFECTIVENESS ” but also “SATISFACTION” were the key words of the day.
I was extremely happy to see that my recommendation for the National Commissions to advertise the participation program in their countries and prioritize youth initiatives was adopted in the report.
We even succeeded to include the recommendations about sexual education and HIV/AIDS to which Joško, our SCORA-D contributed  during the ‘cafe discussion’ on HIV-related issues and AIDS activism. For instance, IFMSA was part of the interview and the article published in UNAIDS website http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2011/october/20111021unescoyouthforum/
In the afternoon ,me and Josko had a meeting with the HIV/AIDS UNESCO section that were very helpful and open to our questions and suggestions. We discussed new opportunities that lie ahead such as externals for the Regional Meetings and General Assemblies, collaboration on sexuality education programmes, creating a publication of good practices on sexuality education programmes driven and led by youth organizations (hint – SCORA and IFMSA!). They were very interested in that idea that definitely must be followed upon!
Later, I met the people from the Climate Change section and gathered UNESCO interesting publications about both topics.I also tried to get UNESCO send us some hard copies for our next meetings.
Last night and of course last adventures of the forum: Lamia loosing her hat and gloves that she finds back  while waiting for the metro in the possession of a youth delegate from Uganda. Joško experiencing the Magheb culture in a nice Algerian restaurant with Tunisian and Algerian delegates. And last but not least Josko forgetting the IFMSA posters twice in the way to our way back home.  This time we did take the right metro direction 🙂
Dear IFMSA friends, this is the end of the IFMSA participation to the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum. Being both an IFMSA observer and a Tunisian young delegate was a rewarding learning experience: Exchanging of leadership experiences, identifying youth problems and advocating for change, contributing to the recommendations, observing the intercultural interaction…
The youth forum is organized every 2 years and the delegates are selected by the National Commissions. Therefore,I’d invite all of you to be in contact with your national commissions so that you may get the chance to be part of the next big adventure.
And as s LO to UNESCO,I would like to emphisize on the importance of UNESCO as one of the main partner of our Federation.I encourage all of you to seek for more information about what this UN agency is doing and how you can benefit from it.
Hope you were pleased to read this report and thank you very much for you trust. Also big thank you to my fellow IFMSA delegates Joško Miše (SCORA Director) and Nassima Dzair (SCORP LO) in being part of this amazing adventure and for giving input for the blog.
Your devoted LO to UNESCO Lamia Jouini.