In its report to this year’s General Assembly the Church of Scotland’s HIV/AIDS Project calls for the recognition that stigma and discrimination continue to act as barriers to effective HIV prevention and care. It recalls the two-week visit to Scotland around World AIDS Day 2006 by Kenyan Pastor Patricia Sawo and her uncompromising message, as someone living with HIV: “People don’t die of AIDS – they die of stigma.” In an overview of HIV around the world, the Assembly will be told that the number of people living with HIV continues to rise as does the number of deaths due to AIDS. An estimated 4.3 million adults and children worldwide were infected in 2006, a 10 per cent increase over 2004. Globally, more women than ever before are now living with HIV.
Access to treatment and care has greatly increased in recent years, albeit from a very low starting level in many countries. The benefits are dramatic. Through the expanded provision of antiretroviral treatment an estimated two million life years have been gained since 2002 in low- and middle-income countries.
In many regions young people account for 40 per cent of new HIV infections. The future course of the world’s HIV epidemics hinges on the behaviours young people adopt or maintain.
Scotland saw a 14 per cent reduction in newly identified cases of HIV in 2006 from the peak of 405 the previous year. However, health officials continue to be concerned about underlying high incidence among men who have sex with men and the public health challenge this poses, as well as ensuring that all infected persons needing specialist treatment and care receive it.
In response to these needs the Project made grants of nearly £120,000 in 2006 to partner organisations in Scotland and worldwide, a number of them in southern India visited recently by Project co-ordinator, Nigel Pounde. The Assembly will also hear of his attendance at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto in August 2006 and the contribution of Christian and other faith communities to breaking the barriers of stigma and discrimination around the world.
• Full story at the Church of Scotland.