The number of people living with HIV/AIDS around the globe has increased by 2 million over the last year -- a number equal to the entire population of Nevada. That update came in a report co-authored by researchers from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization, released Tuesday in time for World AIDS Day.
The grim news accompanies HIV/AIDS-related marches from South Africa to Hanoi, speeches on the epidemic by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and financial contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS in India by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.
The figure also prompted a week of sexual health and prevention-related events in Reno.
The activities, organized by the Northern Nevada Outreach Team, are open to the public, free, and will be held at various locations. After a showing of the MTV broadcast "Staying Alive 4" at UNR Sunday evening, there will also be a discussion of sexual health around the globe today from noon to 1 p.m. by UNR professors Dr. Trudy Larson and Dr. Steve Zell in the Mackay Science Building, room 321.
A sexual health resource fair Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Jot Travis Student Union will include HIV/AIDS testing and booths representing the Student Health Center, the State Division of Health and a number of community service agencies.
Wednesday testing services will be from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the Ansari Business Building Lounge. Also Wednesday, a presentation titled "A Boy, A Girl, a Virus and a Relationship that Happened Anyway," will be from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Jot Travis Auditorium.
On Thursday, Lisa Valtierra, a Latina who has tested positive for HIV, will speak about its effects on the Hispanic community at 6 p.m. in the Club Cal-Neva Hotel and Casino.
The culminating event is Saturday, when panels from the Living Quilt and the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display in the Washoe District Health offices at 1001 East Ninth St., Building B. HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases testing will be available. There will be a community health fair, hip-hop dance presentation by the Creative Performing Arts Center, face painting, raffle prizes and food.
"We're hoping this increases awareness," said Jennifer Howell, Washoe County District Health Department HIV/STD prevention health educator. "There is still a lot of stigma faced by people living with the disease. We're working to reduce barriers so people will test and become more aware"
That stigma is addressed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a World AIDS Day statement.
"The impact of stigma can be as detrimental as the virus itself," he said "The solitude and lack of support it imposes are deeply wounding to those who suffer it. It should also hurt every one of us, for it is an affront to our common humanity."
There are 42 million HIV-positive people worldwide, with sub-Saharan Africa home to 75 percent of them, according to the U.N.'s AIDS agency.
South Africa has more HIV positive people than any other country. Figures released by that government more than two years ago showed that 4.7 million people -- one in nine -- were infected. The figure today is believed to be substantially higher.
There is no vaccine or cure for HIV. However, anti-HIV drugs are available, and taking a combination of anti-HIV drugs can slow down the effect of HIV on the immune system.
Recent medical developments include an FDA fast-track approval process for the new drug Fuzeon, the U.S. government's launch of a human AIDS vaccine trial and the development of a once-a-day pill, instead of multiple doses of several drugs.
According to the American Association for World Health, anywhere from 650,000 to 900,000 Americans are infected with HIV -- about one in every 300 to 400 people.
During a speech two weeks ago U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called HIV/AIDS "the biggest problem that we have on the face of the Earth today."
On the Net
World Aids Day: http://www.worldaidsday.org/
For Your Information
Nevada AIDS Health Fraud Net: 1-800-842-AIDS
Northern Nevada Hope clinic: (775) 786-4673