By Stephanie Jackson Ali

In a recent post, Foundation Beyond Belief notified members that we would be attempting to incorporate the Millennium Development Goals into our charity vetting process as we move forward. In order to better help our members get acquainted with these goals, we are rolling out a monthly explanation of the goals, the progress made thus far toward their achievement, and what we, as a global community, have left to achieve in the remaining three years of the plan. Read more about the background of the MDGs here. Unless otherwise noted, all information below comes directly from the United Nations.

Goal 6 of the Millennium Development Goals is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. Like many other goals, it consists of a number of tasks:

6.A: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
6.B: Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it
6.C: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

The numbers are shocking. Currently, more than 34 million people in the world are living with HIV/AIDS. Malaria kills once every minute, while tuberculosis infects around 8.8 million people annually.

Each of these diseases disproportionately affects sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to more than two-thirds of new HIV infections. All regions, except Africa, are on track to reduce tuberculosis deaths by 50% by 2015. However, TB remains the number two leading cause of death worldwide after HIV/AIDS. Close to 90% of malaria cases are in Africa, and worldwide a child dies of the disease every 45 seconds.
Reaching these goals has proved slow, but progress has been seen by focusing on promoting safer sexual behavior, increasing access to anti-malaria medications, expanding use of mosquito nets, and improving housing conditions to fight TB.

Newly infected rates are falling for each of the diseases.

  • HIV infections have fallen from a high of 3.5 million in 1996 to 2.7 million in 2008, and deaths dropped from 2.2 million in 2004 to 2 million in 2008.
  • Expanded use of insecticide-treated nets is preventing the spread of malaria, especially in Africa. But poverty still prevents some from having access to these nets. 3.3 billion people worldwide are at risk for malaria.
  • Tuberculosis infection is falling in most regions, but it is especially dangerous when paired with HIV. Of the 1.4 million TB deaths in 2011, more than 430,000 of those were people living with HIV/AIDS.

Again, change comes with the spread of education and medication. More people are surviving longer after diagnosis with HIV, most due to increased information on their disease, and due to the expansion of anti-retrovirals in developing countries.

New infections still grow faster than treatment spreads, however. For every two HIV-positive persons starting a drug regimen, five new infections start. The most critical need for treatment comes for young women of childbearing age, as HIV remains the biggest killer for this demographic. Furthermore, those women who have an active drug treatment are far less likely to pass the disease on to their children.

Also, education is not spreading quickly enough to slow the disease’s spread considerably. Less than one-third of young men and one-fifth of young women in developing countries know the basic facts about HIV, including routes of infection. Additionally, the United Nations has found disparities in condom use by both men and women between those from the poorest and richest communities.

Education and treatment are the way to fight the disease, but the rate of action must surpass the rate of infection in order to stem, and eventually turn back, the tide of the epidemic. While many in the developed world see the HIV crisis as a past event, we in the giving community must remember that, both at home and abroad, there are still large advancements to be made, and lives to be saved.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of HIV/AIDS, its spread, and how aid has worked on a global scale, we suggest the following reads. While they aren’t in order, the first book listed is generally considered to be the must-read writing on the topic.

And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic (20th Anniversary Edition), by Randy Shilts
The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS, by Elizabeth Pisani
The Epidemic: A Global History of AIDS, by Jonathan Engel
AIDS in the Twenty-First Century: Disease and Globalization, by Tony Barnett and Alan Whiteside
The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa, by Helen Epstein

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