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Nations should support AIDS fight

The observance of World AIDS Day on Sunday may have been obscured locally by other matters, but never has the global epidemic needed more attention.

According to a report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, 42 million people worldwide live with HIV, up from 40 million at the end of 2001. By the end of the year, 5 million people will have been newly infected with HIV, and AIDS will have killed 3.1 million people.

The developing world is especially hard hit by HIV/AIDS. The vast majority of global HIV cases — 75 percent — occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, while Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with 1.2 million cases each, have the fastest-growing rates of infection, according to the report. India (4 million) and China (1 million) are said to be on the verge of exponential growth of its HIV-positive population.

The factors contributing to the spread of the disease are complex and vary from region to region, but HIV/AIDS everywhere can be combated with more education, preventative measures and access to anti-HIV medication — all of which require money. To that end, a global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria was set up to funnel money into the most needy countries, but, sadly, the fund is far short of its goal.

The World Health Organization released a report stating that $12 billion is needed to fight those diseases, but to date barely more than $2 billion has been pledged to the fund from various sources worldwide. The United States earmarked only $500 million for the fund, but that is a drop in the bucket compared to his administration’s expenditures in other areas.

Though access to medication is the surest and most direct way of dealing with HIV-positive individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, major corporations have resisted subsidizing pricey AIDS medications for most of their laborers in impoverished, HIV-stricken nations. These corporations and the industrialized nations where they originate should drastically increase their support for the world’s HIV/AIDS sufferers in the form of monetary assistance to the governments, treatment facilities and greater access to HIV/AIDS drugs. The developing world cannot do it on its own.